Anyone can fall but the consequences are vastly different depending upon one's age. All children fall when running, playing games, roller skating and the like but they are resilient. Their injuries usually result in a skinned knee with the worst being a broken arm if the fall was from a large height such as climbing. However, the risk of falling becomes greater as we age and the potential for serious injury increases. Falls are the leading cause of injury-related deaths and the most common cause of injuries and hospital admissions among adults aged 65 and older. (Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service)
Here are some quick facts and statistics about senior falls provided by Colorado State University:
- The risk of falling increases with age and is greater for women than for men.
- Two-thirds of those who experience a fall will fall again within six months.
- A decrease in bone density contributes to falls and resultant injuries.
- Failure to exercise regularly results in poor muscle tone, decreased strength, and loss of bone mass and flexibility.
- At least one-third of all falls in the elderly involve environmental hazards in the home.
Home accidents are a major source of injuries and can even cause death. The elderly are especially vulnerable to serious injuries from home accidents. Older bones are often less dense, more brittle and break more easily. A simple fall can become a serious, disabling injury that limits independence. As we age, our senses of sight, touch, hearing and smell tend to decline. Our physical abilities are reduced, making it more difficult to stretch, lift and bend. Our judgment and reaction time also slow. As a result, we cannot respond as quickly as when we were younger. These normal changes in perception, physical abilities and judgment make us more prone to accidents. Colorado State University identifies the following as the five main risk factors for senior falls:
Factor #1: Osteoporosis
Osteoporosis is a condition wherein bones become more porous, less resistant to stress, and more prone to fractures. Caused by hormonal changes, calcium and vitamin D deficiency, and a decrease in physical activity, osteoporosis is a chief cause of fractures in older adults, especially among women.
Factor #2: Lack of Physical Activity
Failure to exercise regularly results in poor muscle tone, decreased strength, and loss of bone mass and flexibility. All contribute to falls and the severity of injury due to falls.
Factor #3: Impaired Vision
Age-related vision diseases can increase the risk of falling. Cataracts and glaucoma alter older people's depth perception, visual acuity, peripheral vision and susceptibility to glare. These limitations hinder their ability to safely negotiate their environment, whether it is in their own home or in a shopping mall. Young people use visual cues to perceive an imminent fall and take corrective action. Older adults with visual impairments do not have this advantage to the same extent.
Factor #4: Medications
Sedatives, anti-depressants, and anti-psychotic drugs can contribute to falls by reducing mental alertness, worsening balance and gait, and causing drops in systolic blood pressure while standing. Additionally, people taking multiple medications are at greater risk of falling.
Factor #5: Environmental Hazards
At least one-third of all falls in the elderly involve environmental hazards in the home. The most common hazard for falls is tripping over objects on the floor. Other factors include poor lighting, loose rugs, lack of grab bars or poorly located/mounted grab bars, and non-sturdy furniture.
The most profound effect of falling is the loss of independent functioning. Twenty-five percent of those who fracture a hip require life-long nursing care. About 50 percent of the elderly who sustain a fall-related injury will be discharged to a nursing home rather than return home. Most falls do not result in serious injury. However, there is often a psychological impact. Approximately 25 percent of community-dwelling people 75 or over unnecessarily restrict their activities because of fear of falling. (Colorado State University)
Simple precautions and adjustments can help ensure a safe, accident-free home. Many falls can be prevented and if you address the five factors above it can help make your home safer and reduce the amount of falls. You can keep the home free from clutter and objects that could be a trip hazard, take care of your physical health and see a doctor regularly to monitor medications and vision. Seek help if it is needed to attend to the risk factors that can reduce chances of senior falls. Contact Synergy HomeCare of North Orange County for home care services including transportation to doctor appointments or for help with clearing clutter and trip hazards. SYNERGY HomeCare of North Orange County services Fullerton, Yorba Linda, Anaheim, Orange and most cities in North Orange County. We provide quality, compassionate care, with no contracts, and no minimums.