Risk of Falls for Older Adults
Risk Increases with Age
Many people have a friend or relative who has fallen. Maybe you have fallen yourself. If you or an older person you know has fallen, you are not alone. More than one in three people age 65 years or older falls each year. The risk of falling and fall-related problems rises with age.
Falls Lead to Fractures, Trauma
Each year, more than 1.6 million older U.S. adults go to emergency departments for fall-related injuries. Among older adults, falls are the number one cause of fractures to the hip, pelvis, spine, arm, hand, or ankle, hospital admissions and stays for trauma, loss of independence and injury deaths.
Hip fractures are one of the most serious types of fall injury. They are a leading cause of death, disability and loss of independence among older adults. Only half of older adults who break a hip can return home or live on their own after a hip fracture. Some individuals require long-term care even after treatment and rehabilitation.
Fear of Falling
Many older adults are afraid of falling. This fear becomes more common as people age, even among those who have not fallen. It may lead older people to avoid activities such as walking, shopping, or taking part in social events. If you are worried about falling, talk with your health care team. You may be referred to a physical therapist. A physical therapist (PT) can help you in many ways. A PT can show you how to improve your balance, strengthen your muscles, improve your walking and build your walking confidence. Getting rid of your fear of falling can help you to stay active, maintain your physical health, and prevent future falls.
Tell Your Health Care Team If You Fall
If you fall, be sure to discuss the fall at your next visit with your health care team, even if you are not hurt. Falls do not “just happen,” and people do not fall just because they get older. Many underlying causes of falls can be treated or corrected. For example, falls can be a sign of a new medical problem that needs attention, such as diabetes or changes in blood pressure, particularly drops in blood pressure on standing up. They can also be a sign of problems with your medications or eyesight that can be corrected. After a fall, your doctor may suggest changes in your medication or your eyewear prescription. Your doctor may also suggest physical therapy, use of a walking aid, or other steps to help prevent future falls. These steps can also make you more confident in your abilities.
Ways to Prevent Falls
Exercise to improve your balance and strengthen your muscles helps to prevent falls. You can also make your home safer by removing loose rugs, adding handrails to stairs and hallways, and making sure you have adequate lighting in dark areas. The Health Facts for You “Home Safety-Preventing Falls” (HFFY # 6626) offers some tips for preventing falls at home.
Falls are not an inevitable part of life, even as a person gets older. You can take action to prevent falls. Your health care team can help you decide what changes will help.
Source: NIH Senior Health: National Institutes of Health, National Institute on Aging and National Library of Medicine 2013. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention STEADI Toolkit 2013. Use of information with permission.
Reviewed by: University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics: Geriatric Falls Clinic.
The information provided should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
Last Updated: 10/08/2013
Copyright © 10/08/2013 University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#7553
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