Falls are a bigger medical problem than many people realize. They account for millions of visits to emergency rooms each year and are the second-leading cause of accidental death in homes and communities.
Of course, falls can be a risk among all age groups, but they are particularly problematic among the elderly. People 65 and older are four times more likely to die from a fall than all other age groups. Often that's because of medical conditions or medications, which make the elderly more prone to falling.
In addition, up to 30 percent of people who fall suffer moderate to severe injuries, including lacerations, fractures and head traumas. The most common fractures are of the spine, hip, forearm, leg, ankle, pelvis, upper arm and hand.
Fall Prevention Tips
A number of steps can help minimize the risk of falling -- or perhaps minimize the damage that will occur during a fall. The best step is to take great care to make your home as safe as possible. This includes removing as many tripping hazards as possible: items like electrical and phone cords, loose rugs and mats as well as clothes, toys, boxes and shoes that are on the floor or the stairs.
Good lighting is also a key feature for preventing falls in homes, so upgrade or add lighting where needed. Any surface with an incline, like stairs or a ramp, is a risk as well, so add railings to these areas wherever possible. Slipping can also cause falls so the best bet here is to clean up any spills as soon as possible. Anyone who's prone to falls should also choose slip-resistant footwear.
Staying strong and healthy also helps people, especially the elderly, be less prone to falls. Regular exercise can contribute to this and also help make people more able to maintain their balance as they age. Many medications can increase the risk for falling, so anyone's who's fallen or is worried about falling should review all prescriptions with their doctor. Regular eye appointments are also a good idea. Finally, get plenty of vitamin D and calcium to preserve bone health. Anyone with osteoporosis should be under the care of doctor to prevent potential complications from a fall.
SOURCES: National Safety Council, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
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