To lower your risk of falling, use the answers to these questions to make your home safer and to know what to do in an emergency.
Q. How often do falls occur?
A. Falls among seniors have become an epidemic that jeopardizes seniors’ chances to live independently. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), every year in the US, one out of three people age 65 and older will fall. This statistic translates to 13.3 million people who will fall in 2010 or one person falling every 2.3 seconds on average. As alarming as they are, these documented statistics fall short of the actual number since many incidents are unreported by seniors and unrecognized by family members or caregivers.
Q. Why do seniors fall?
A. summary of 12 studies cite the following most common reasons for falls among seniors: accident/environment, gait/balance disorder and dizziness/vertigo. In addition to the list, the effect of drugs on the elderly and the difficulties surrounding medication compliance, are also believed to be the root cause for many falls.
Q. Are there steps I can take to reduce my fall risk?
A. Yes, here are three suggestions on how to minimize the risk of falling.
- Some people think that the best thing to do if you’ve fallen or if you’re afraid of falling is to be less active. Actually inactivity makes it more likely that you will fall. You should consider an exercise program. Always check with your healthcare professional before you begin.
- As we get older, items in our home that used to be virtually harmless start to pose a great risk. Carpets, stairs, even pets can be dangerous. Visit each room in your home and look for overall safety issues and ways to reduce risk, like improving lighting, removing clutter, securing rugs, installing railings and grab bars.
- Although medications are supposed to keep you from getting sick, they can also put you at risk for falling. It is a good idea to consult a pharmacist or your healthcare provider about all the medications you take, and take medications as directed.
Q. How do you get up from a fall?
A. Healthcare experts recommend that you “learn how to get up safely.” Here are the steps to get up from a fall:
- Getting up quickly or the wrong way could make an injury worse. If you are hurt, call for help using a medical alert service or a telephone, or by making yourself heard in any way possible. Look around for a sturdy piece of furniture or the bottom of a staircase. Don’t try and stand up on your own. Roll over onto your side by turning your head in the direction you are trying to roll. Then, move your shoulders, arm, hips and, finally, your leg over.
- Push your upper body up. Lift your head and pause for a few moments to steady yourself. Slowly get up on your hands and knees and crawl to a sturdy chair. Place your hands on the seat of the chair and slide one foot forward so it is flat on the floor.
- Keep the other leg bent with the knee on the floor. From this kneeling position, slowly rise and turn your body to sit in the chair. Sit for a few minutes before you try to do anything else.
Talk to your primary care provider about having a fall-risk evaluation. The fact that you have fallen once means that you have a high risk of falling again.
Q. Are there resources available for me?
A. Yes, Philips Lifeline sponsors a website for facts, figures and information on reducing your fall risk. For more, go to www.learnnottofall.com