The coronavirus pandemic changed a lot of things, but one thing that’s still the same is that falling is not a normal part of aging.
Doctors from Abrazo Health want residents to know there are steps they can take to reduce their risk of fall injuries.
Falls are a leading cause of injury for people aged 65 and older, according to the National Council on Aging, but they are not an inevitable part of aging.
“If fall prevention isn’t something that you’re thinking about now, there is probably someone in your life who’s worried about it,” said Dr. Brian Hess, Abrazo Health Emergency Services medical director and Abrazo Surprise Hospital emergency department physician.
As people age, their risk of falling and being injured increase. After age 65, a person’s risk of falling is about one in four. Among older Americans, falls are the number one cause of death from injury. These falls can result in broken bones or other injuries that lead to declining health, isolation and a loss of independence, according to Dr. Hess.
Aging brings many physical changes, including slowed reaction times and a decreased sense of balance. Many medications, including diuretics, sedatives and high blood pressure medications can alter a person’s sense of balance, according to Dr. Hess. Health conditions that affect older adults, such as cataracts, glaucoma, stroke, Parkinson’s disease, congestive heart failure, heart arrhythmias, emphysema, arthritis and nerve damage can increase their risk of falls due to pain or inactivity.
“Some home hazards can also contribute to an increased risk of falling such as loose slippers, rugs on the floor, poor lighting at night, and slippery surface areas,” Dr. Hess said.
While the risk of falling increases with age, one can take measures to help prevent falls.
“First, talk with your doctor. You may need to have your vision as well as your balance and movement checked. Your prescription medications may need to be changed. Many people can reduce their risk of falls by exercising, improving their balance and implementing safety measures at home,” he said.
Some simple changes in the home also can reduce the risk of falls. They include keeping electrical and telephone cords out of the way, arranging furniture so it is easier to move around it, don’t use throw rugs and all carpeting should be secured to the floor, use a step-stool to reach something from a high shelf or move items to lower shelves, install grab bars on walls around the tub and beside the toilet, use nonskid mats or adhesive strips on surfaces that will get wet, keep a flashlight by the bedside at night, install handrails on both sides of the stairway and wear rubber-soled shoes that have low heels.
“It’s important to know that falls can happen just about any time. Take a few steps now to help tripping hazards at home, and recognize other potential risks that can help prevent fall injuries,” said Dr. Hess. “If you have a fall or other medical emergency, be reassured that our ERs are safe places for care. We are concerned that patients may not be seeking care until it is too late and want to make sure that they are not afraid to seek help.”
Editor’s Note: Mr. Jones is Abrazo Health spokesman.