What is Fall Prevention

Facts

  • Annually, millions of older people (aged 65 and older) fall. 1 out of 4 older adults will fall each year, but less than half of them tell their doctor.  Those who have fallen in the past are at twice the risk of falling in the future. 

  • In Indiana, residents aged 65 and older account for 82.1% of all fall deaths and 71.8% of nonfatal fall hospitalizations in Indiana. They are the leading cause of traumatic brain injury (TBI) in Indiana residents 65 and older. In Indiana, falls were responsible for 53% of TBI deaths; in addition, 47.1% of fall hospitalizations among older adults were associated with a TBI. Weekly, there are 879.8 emergency department visits among residents aged 65 and older, 240.3 hospitalizations, and 7.6 deaths due to fall injuries in Indiana. (2016 Special Emphasis Report: Fall Injuries among Older Adults)

 

Fall Prevention focuses on factors that can reduce the risk of falls at home among the aging population.  Many falls can be prevented. By making some changes, you can lower your chances of falling.


Three areas YOU can address to help prevent falls:

 

  • Medication Management - Work with your medical provider to identify health risks and develop a plan to address these risks.   

  • Balance/Mobility - Improve balance, strength, flexibility and endurance through physical activity.

  • Home Safety - Make changes in the home to make your environment safer and reduce the risk of falling

Medical Management

There are a number of health related factors that can result in a risk of falling.  These may include :

  • Poor Vision - Poor vision can contribute to falling through not seeing potential tripping hazards.  You may also have a condition such as glaucoma or cataracts that limits your vision.  Changes in depth perception may also contribute toward falls.  Have your eyesight checked by an optometrist at least once per year

  • Poor Hearing -  It may be difficult to localize the source of a sound or one may not hear a vehicle or person approaching.  Have your hearing checked regularly.

  • Medication Side Effects - As you get older, the way medicines work in your body can change. Some medicines, or combinations of medicines, can make you sleepy or dizzy and can cause you to fall.  Once you have an idea of some of the risks and how  you might be affected, you can work with your doctor, other health professionals, and your family to determine what factors can be modified to reduce your risk.  Ask your provider about taking vitamin D supplements to improve bone, muscle, and nerve health.

  • Dizziness/Lightheadedness - A common problem is low blood pressure when standing causing one to feel lightheaded.  Drink plenty of water to remain hydrated.  Dehydration can make you feel lightheaded or dizzy.  Rise slowly from a seated position.  Standing up too quickly can cause your blood pressure to drop, leading to a fall.  Tell your doctor if you feel dizzy when rising from a bed or chair.

  • Chronic/Acute Conditions - Many chronic neurological conditions (such as Parkinson’s Disease, stroke and head injury) and other chronic illnesses may impair balance. Inactivity or weakness following an acute illness or hospitalization may also impair balance and increase fall risk.  Consult with your primary health care provider with any symptoms of unsteadiness, weakness or difficulty with walking during your daily tasks.  A physical therapist referral may be appropriate.

  • Poor Nutrition - Poor nutrition can lead to weakness and dizziness.  Maintain a healthy balanced diet.  Work with local agencies to obtain support as needed.

  • Alcohol - Alcohol and drugs affect your body differently as you age and may be dangerous when mixed with your medications. Speak with your doctor about how alcohol might interact with your medications.

  • Feet Issues/Footwear - Poor or ill-fitting footwear can also adversely affect balance and gait.  Foot problems can make it harder to stay physically active and increase your risk of tripping, slipping and falling. Such painful conditions include bunions, corns, calluses and warts.  Keep your feet healthy and pain free.  Have your feet checked by your healthcare provider once a year.  Consult with a doctor for any foot issues.  Wear comfortable shoes with a firm sole that doesn't slip.  Avoid wearing heals, slippers and flip flops, as these can contribute to falls.  

For additional information, please see https://www1.nyc.gov/site/doh/health/health-topics/healthy-aging-tend-to-your-feet.page

  • Fear of Falling - Older adults may avoid physical and social activities because they are afraid they might fall.  This can lead to muscle weakness, social isolation, anxiety and depression, all of which increase the risk of falling.  Work with your medical provider to develop a personal fall prevention plan.  Stay physically and socially active.  Prepare for how to handle a fall if it should happen to help feel more confident in case of an emergency.  

 
 

Balance/Mobility

From CDC.gov STEADI Brochure "What You Can Do to Prevent Falls":

 

  • Exercises that improve balance and make your legs stronger lower your chances of falling.  It also helps you feel better and more confident.  An example of this kind of exercise is Tai Chi.  

  • Lack of exercise leads to weakness and increases your chances of falling

  • Ask your doctor or healthcare provider about the best type of exercise program for you.

CDC.gov STEADI-Brochure-WhatYouCanDoToPreventFalls

 

 

Home Safety

From CDC.gov STEADI Brochure "What You Can Do to Prevent Falls":

 

Most falls happen at home.

 

There are trip hazards in your home that may make it more likely to fall such as throw rugs that stick up or cords not hidden or put away.

  • Remove things you can trip over (like papers, books, clothes, and shoes) from stairs and places where you walk.

  • Remove small throw rugs or use doublesided tape to keep the rugs from slipping.

  • Keep items you use often in cabinets you can reach easily without using a step stool.

  • Have grab bars put in next to and inside the tub, and next to the toilet.

  • Use non-slip mats in the bathtub and on shower floors.

  • Improve the lighting in your home. As you get older, you need brighter lights to see well. Hang light-weight curtains or shades to reduce glare.

  • Have handrails and lights installed on all staircases.

  • Wear well-fitting shoes with good support inside and outside the house.

 
  • Prepare for a Potential Fall

  • What to Do in Case of a Fall

Fall Plan

Not all falls can be prevented.  With planning, however, you can have some things in place to reduce the severity of an injury if you do fall.

  • Be ready to get EMERGENCY HELP when needed

  • Have a personal alert system if possible

  • Have telephones (cell phones, hand-held phone) accessible in all areas of the house.

  • Have emergency numbers (9-1-1, personal physician, emergency contact name) on or near all phones.

  • Have your address and directions beside each phone so that someone other than you can give directions if necessary.

  • Make sure your house number is highly visible from the road.

  • Have a “daily check” system in place with a friend or neighbor.

  • If you feel yourself falling, drop anything in your hands and use your hands to break your fall.

  • After a fall, try to assess your situation before moving to prevent further injury to any affected parts.

  • If you are injured, or unable to get up on your own, try to activate a personal alert system, reach a phone or try to get the attention of a neighbor or passer-by.  Seek medical attention.

  • Later, think about what happened to prevent future injuries.

 

From <http://www.nhfalls.org/wordpress/older-adults/what-if-you-fall/>

 

©2016 BY INDIANA FALL PREVENTION COALITION