Each year 36 million falls occur among people who are 65 and older, a key reason for elderly fall prevention

Last week an elderly man I know decided to take a short walk with his wife in their neighborhood.  They made it to the sloped driveway when the man suddenly fell.   His distraught wife couldn’t get him up for good reason.  He had broken his hip.  He hadn’t been doing anything unusual, they weren’t in a rush, he was wearing good shoes, it seemed that only the slight curve in the driveway could be blamed, and the fact the the man is in his 80’s. This is a common scenario about why elderly fall prevention is so important.

Fortunately, this man was in pretty good shape before the fall so he’s improving well and will hopefully recover most of his mobility and quality of life, if he sticks to his physical therapy routine.

elderly fall prevention key to stopping seniors from being injured
A senior man falling on the ground with cane in living room at home.

How Many Elderly Falls Occur?

Each year, 36 million falls occur among people who are 65 years or older. One out of five falls is serious enough to cause broken bones or head injuries. 950,000 seniors are hospitalized annually due to falls, and there are 32,000 deaths related to falls each year. In 2016, in San Diego County, over 20,000 older adults were treated and discharged from the emergency department, while another 7,000 people were admitted for impatient care due to falls.

In fact, fall death rates are on the rise and have increased 30% over the last decade.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, (CDC), unintentional accidents are the 7th leading cause of death for seniors, mostly stemming from falls and driving accidents.

For some, falls dramatically change their quality of life.   In the 2012 San Diego County Falls Report, an older San Diegan died from a fall every 30 hours. 

Looking just at 2010 alone, falls were the cause of 68% of all deaths due to injuries in San Diego County.  And for some reason fall related deaths are rising.  The number of deaths for people 65 and older rose 239% from 2001 to 2010.

Risk Factor for Falls

Some of the risk factors for falls in the elderly include health conditions such as Alzheimer’s/Dementia, Parkinson’s, general weakness due to muscle loss, poor nutrition, depression or loneliness, lack of exercise, and poly-pharmacy, taking multiple mediations. Many seniors are also not getting enough protein to support their muscles and bones.

Steps to take for Elderly Fall Prevention

What can be done?

Elderly Fall Prevention is key to preserving independence for those 65 and older. Some ideas are simple for elderly fall prevention, such as wearing the proper footwear when exercising, avoiding open toed shoes and flip flops and making sure the shoes fit properly.

Another part of fall prevention is to consider medications, seniors who take multiple medications or opioids are at higher risk for falls.

Having multiple medications increases the need for elderly fall prevention
Man taking pills out of medicine cabinet. Focus on medication on shelf.

Dr. Wilma Wooten, Director of Public Health for the county of San Diego, recommends interventions such as a medical evaluation (including a medication review and vision, strength and balance evaluations), a home safety evaluation and physical fitness programs that include strength and balance components.

San Diego has an elderly fall prevention task force which puts out a pamphlet aimed at fall prevention guidelines.

Restrooms and kitchens are common areas for falls.  The dangers include throw rugs that are a trip hazard and water spilled on the floor.  In the restroom, it’s common for us to see showers that would be much safer if a bench and grab bars were installed.  Some of our clients use towel racks as grab bars, which give a false sense of security, but they can’t really support a person’s weight in a fall.

At Home Nursing Care caregivers are trained to provide support services, such as help with bathing, dressing, and help with meal preparation.  They also encourage physical activity, when appropriate, because the fear of falling can also be a risk factor.  People who feel anxious about walking limit their physical activity, and that increases their weakness and chances of falling.

More tips can be found at SanDiegoFallPrevention.org.

You can read the entire report by clicking the link here.  Senior Fall Report 2012

If you are worried about someone you love, At Home Nursing Care, Inc. can provide comprehensive case management evaluations and can work with your family to protect your loved one’s independence.  Call 760-634-8000 to learn more about our San Diego and Los Angeles senior care.

Originally published in 2012 and updated regularly.

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