Fall injuries are on the rise

Incidents of serious fall injuries among older adults are on the rise.  1 in 3 adults over the age of 65  sustains a fall each year. Considering that the percentage of older individuals overall continues to increase, these trends are expected to produce even higher numbers. 

What can you do to reduce your fall potential?  This article covers incidents of falls and strategies to minimize fall risks.  

In 2009, 2.2 million non-fatal fall injuries among older adults were treated in emergency departments.  One out of three adults, age 65 and older will sustain a fall each year.  In 2009, nearly 600,000 fall patients treated in emergency departments were subsequently hospitalized.  In an article published by the American Journal of Epidemiology, report that falls are a leading cause of death in the U.S.  They noted that about 42% of fall injuries required hospital admission, with the mean length of stay being 11.6 days.  From their research, they found a staggering 50% of fall events that occurred at home and required hospital admission resulted in discharge to a nursing home!  Aside from the critical impact on the quality of life to those suffering from falls and their families, the medical costs resulting from fall injury treatment is estimated to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars in the United States alone. 
 
Hip fractures are commonly caused by falls and often result in some degree of a reduced level of functioning or long-term functional impairment. 
 
What can we do to try to prevent falls? 

The best way to manage a fall is not to have one. Some tips or strategies to minimize your Fall Risk include: 
 
Use the mnemonic F-A-L-L 
F  “FIT”  
Good nutrition – drinking plenty of water and healthier eating options can help maintain activity levels. Dehydration can be a contributing factor to light-headedness and increase your risk of falling. Proper food intake will give you the needed energy for all the activities you are planning. 

An “ACTIVE”
Stay healthy- sounds simple, doesn’t it? It is – keeping up with a regular exercise program that helps maintain muscle strength, especially leg strength, can help you better manage your balance. Your bones will also respond to the ‘challenges’ you give to them, exercises that give your bones some weight-bearing challenges will cause them to grow stronger, making you more resistant to a fracture in the unfortunate event of a fall. 

L  “LIMIT” your risks! 
Do keep your pathways clear if possible 
Do remove throw rugs that are not secured to the floor 
Do remove the clutter 
Do keep walkways well lit 
Don’t leave extension cords or other hazards across walking areas 

L  “LEARN” about your medication.
Be aware of the potential side effects.  Each drug carries the risks of specific side effects, but the combined effects of different medications can present a whole different set of problems.  Talk to your doctor or pharmacist and ask, especially if the drug (s) you are taking can impact your balance or cause dizziness.  Be mindful of what medications you are taking and plan your activities with your medication schedule. 
  
References: 
Sattin R.W., et al., Am. J. Epidemiology (1990) 131 (6):1028-1037. 
Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. www.cdc.gov/HomeandRecreationalSafety/Falls 
 
Yardley L, Barker F, Muller I et al. Clinical and cost effectiveness of booklet based vestibular rehabilitation for chronic dizziness in primary care: Single-blind, parallel group, pragmatic, randomised controlled trial; BMJ (Online) (2012) 344(7860) DOI: 10.1136/bmj.e2237. 
 
Pinter, M. M., & Brainin, M. (2012, February). Rehabilitation after stroke in older people. Maturitas. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.maturitas.2011.11.011 
 
Alrwaily, M., & Whitney, S. L. (2011, April). Vestibular rehabilitation of older adults with dizziness. Otolaryngologic Clinics of North America. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.otc.2011.01.015         


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