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According to the CDC, each year one in every three adults age 65 and older fall. This creates a wide range of injuries, including hip fractures, head traumas and an increased risk of early death. Falls are the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries among older adults and account for 70% of deaths among people 75 years and older.  

Thankfully, most falls can be avoided. Through education and taking necessary precautions, we can avoid a serious injury from the result of a fall. In the last month I have had multiple conversations with seniors and their families about the risk of falls and how this creates a barrier to living independently. I think it is an appropriate time, especially considering the weather, to get people really thinking about the risks they take during their average day.    

Older adults who survive a fall experience a significant decline. According to an article in the American Family Physician, hospital stays are twice as long in elderly patients who are hospitalized after a fall than for any other reason. When comparing elderly persons who do not fall with those who do fall, there is a greater functional decline in activities of daily living and in physical and social activities in persons who fall. They are also at greater risk for subsequent institutionalization.  

Seniors need to exercise regularly. Keeping your body moving helps to avoid losing the ability to do certain mobility-related tasks. If seniors are not active, they can lose the ability to do the things they enjoy doing. By doing a home exercise program and forcing yourself to get up and walk around throughout your day, you will be increasing your reaction time and strength as well as increasing balance and blood flow in your body.     

Talk with your doctor about your medicines. Many times, side effects of a medicine could lead to falls due to dizziness or drowsiness. It is important to be aware of possible side effects and be proactive in preventing a crisis.

Ask for help or consider not doing a particular activity if it could create a fall risk. I completely understand a senior’s need to feel and stay independent but this also sometimes leads to an avoidable fall. For example, if it is slick outside do not walk to the mailbox to get the mail or ask someone to bring it in for you or wait until conditions are better. If bending over makes you dizzy, consider having supportive services just for the tasks that create the fall risk. This does not mean that you are less independent, but means that you are being sensible due to your age and ability to safely complete certain tasks.

Look at your environment and make sure it is not hazardous. Take throw rugs up off the floor, add grab bars if needed in the bathroom and make sure there is decent lighting.  

If you are worried about fall risks with you or a loved one, please feel free to call Western Illinois Home Health Care at 1-800-228-5993 for more information on a comprehensive care plan to remain independent at home.

Amanda Powell, BSW, is a Senior Care Manager for Western Illinois Home Health Care

Falls Undermine Independence

February 2014

by Amanda Powell

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