The coronavirus pandemic has changed a lot of things. One thing that’s still the same?
Falling is not a normal part of aging.
This week is national Fall Prevention Awareness Week, Sept. 21-25, and doctors from Abrazo Health want the public to know there are steps you can take to reduce your risk of fall injuries.
Falls are a leading cause of injury for people aged 65 and older, according to the National Council on Aging (NCOA), 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, medical director for emergency services at Abrazo Health and emergency department physician at the soon-to-open Abrazo Surprise Hospital.
As we age, our risk of falling and being injured increase. After age 65, your risk of falling is about one in four. Among older Americans, falls are the number one cause of death from injury. These falls may result in broken bones or other injuries that lead to declining health, isolation and a loss of independence, said 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 your sense of balance. 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 your risk of falls due to pain or inactivity,” explained Dr. Hess. “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.”
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 your home also can reduce your risk of falls:
• Keep electrical and telephone cords out of the way.
• Arrange furniture so you can easily move around it.
• Don’t use throw rugs. 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 your bedside at night.
• Install handrails on both sides of the stairway.
• 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.”
For more information about emergency care at Abrazo Health hospitals, visit https://www.abrazohealth.com/services/emergency-room/hospital-er-safety.
Editor's note: Abrazo has a number of locations throughout the Valley, including Peoria and soon-to-open Surprise.