Seniors May Keep Falls a Secret
But doctors often able to identify cause of fall and help to prevent another
TUESDAY, Jan. 27, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Many seniors don't tell their doctors they've had a fall because they're worried they'll be told they can't live on their own anymore, a physician says.
Millions of Americans aged 65 and older fall every year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But, fewer than half tell their doctor, the researchers noted.
"They're worried about other people becoming concerned about safety issues at home and the potential that they may have to move from their home to assisted living or a nursing home," Dr. Nicole Osevala, an internal medicine specialist at Penn State University, said in a school news release.
Seniors also don't want others to worry about them, she said.
"If they fall and don't have a serious injury, they don't want to bother their kids or loved ones," Osevala said.
But she urged seniors to tell their doctor about any falls so the causes can be pinpointed and corrected.
Chronic health conditions such as osteoarthritis and nerve damage in the feet and other extremities -- called peripheral neuropathy -- can increase the risk of falls, as can recent changes in health.
"Things like infections -- urinary tract infections, pneumonia, skin infections -- anything that might make them be not quite as strong as they would be normally can put them at increased risk," Osevala said.
Medications, such as antidepressants and antianxiety drugs, can affect balance. And, blood pressure drugs can sometimes lower blood pressure too much, she added.
A seniors' surroundings can also increase the risk of falls, experts say. Things that can make falls more likely are throw rugs, loose cords, poor lighting, clutter on the floor, uneven surfaces, and icy or slick surfaces.
It's also important -- though sometimes difficult -- for older adults to acknowledge their limitations, the study authors explained.
"For example, they might try to climb stairs carrying a laundry basket when they normally have to hold onto the railing," Osevala said. "It may be just a poor choice but they get half way through the task and realize that they're in a precarious situation and they're falling."
And, having had one fall puts seniors at higher risk for having another fall, research shows.
"It's really important to report a fall to your doctor so they can look at all of those areas and identify anything that might be pertinent to you and try to address as many as possible," Osevala said.
The U.S. National Institute on Aging has more about seniors and falls.