Home is a safe haven, right? Not necessarily. Almost two-thirds of accidental falls among older persons occur in the home. Most of these falls are related to everyday activities such as climbing stairs, going to the bathroom, or cooking. In fact, falls are the leading cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries in people aged 65 and older.
Here are the facts:
- 30% of people over the age of 65 will fall each year.
- 90% of the 300,000 hip fractures treated annually are the results of falls.
- About 25% of hip fracture patients make full recoveries; 40% require nursing home admission; 50% become dependent on a cane or walker; and 20% die within one year.
- $20 billion is spent annually for treatment of injuries to older people after falls. The majority of the cost is for hip fracture care, which averages $35,000 per patient.
According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, falls are not “natural occurrences” for seniors and can be prevented 30 – 40% of the time. To prevent falls in the home, take these safety precautions:
- Provide adequate lighting in rooms and stairways.
- Keep stairs and pathways free of throw rugs and clutter.
- Install handrails on stairs, in the bathtub, and in toilet areas.
- Use night-lights.
- Use rugs with nonskid backing.
- Avoid climbing and reaching to high shelves.
- Keep electrical and telephone cords out of pathways.
- Wear low-heeled shoes with nonskid soles.
Certain medical factors can also place seniors at risk for falls. To reduce medical risk factors, have cardiac and blood pressure problems evaluated, know the side effects of your medications, maintain a proper diet (adequate calcium and vitamin D, particularly, for bone health) and keep fit with weight-bearing exercise. If you are frail, have poor eyesight, or conditions that place you at risk for falling, consider wearing a medical alert monitor or carrying a portable phone in your pocket.
What should you do if you fall?
- Don’t panic. Assess the situation and determine if you are hurt.
- Slide or crawl along the floor to the nearest couch or chair and try to get up.
- If you can’t get up, shout for help.
- If you are alone, crawl slowly to the telephone and call 911 or relatives.
- If you are confused or in pain, go to the emergency room.
Read about this exciting project being conducted at Temple University.
This site gives you some more tips to prevent falls.
Health conditions may increase the risk of falling.
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