By Dylan Babb
Community Outreach Manager, CarePartners
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), millions of adults 65 and older fall each year; in the US nearly 1 in 4 older adults fall each year. According to the NC Center for Health and Wellness at UNCA, falls are one of the leading causes of injury death for people 65 and older. Falls can have major consequences, including hip fractures, broken bones and head injuries.
Even if a fall doesn’t result in an injury, falling can cause someone to become fearful or depressed, which can actually increase their risk for falling. Most falls are caused by multiple risk factors that can increase someone’s chances of falling. Falls can be prevented if you know what to look for.
Here are some common factors:
- Gait and balance issues: Most of us lose some flexibility and coordination as we age, primarily through inactivity.
- Poor vision: As our eyes get older less light reaches the retina—which means edges, trip hazards and obstacles are harder to see.
- Medications: Some prescriptions and over-the-counter medications can cause dizziness or dehydration that can increase risk. Some medications can interaction with each other and also increase risks.
- Chronic conditions: Some chronic conditions can lead to falls, including diabetes, Parkinson’s, dementia, arthritis and stroke. Typically these conditions increase the risk of falls because they result in a loss of function, inactivity, depression, pain or require multiple medications.
What to do:
- Talk to a healthcare provider. Discuss your risks and ask for programs or services that can help. Fall prevention can take a team effort. If you are worried about falling or maintaining your independence, bring it up with your doctor and family. There are physical therapists who can help you maintain your mobility. Be sure to take advantage of community resources. Here in western North Carolina there are evidence-based fall prevention programs offered in the community.
- Do not limit your activity. The answer is not to simply stay at home. Performing physical activities, and maintaining your strength and range of motion can help prevent falls. Continuing to engage in social activities is important for your overall health.
- Get your eyes checked. If you have low-vision issues, talk to your provider about assistive devices that can help or see an occupational therapist at our low-vision center.
- Use a walking aid. A cane or walker can be important for some older adults. A physical therapist can check to make sure the walker or cane is a right fit and show you how to properly use the equipment.
- Check your medications. Be careful when starting a new medication (prescription or over the counter). Ask about side effects and possible interactions to watch out for.
Dylan Babb is the Community Outreach Manager for CarePartners.