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Take Proper Steps to Prevent Falls

Every 20 minutes, an older adult in the U.S. dies from a fall. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also reports that a fall-related injury sends an older adult to an emergency room every 13 seconds. Falls are the leading cause of death and injury for adults age 65 and older. However, falls can be prevented.

The ninth annual Falls Prevention Awareness-Day [1] is today, September 22 — the first day of fall. The observance raises awareness about how to prevent fall-related injuries among older adults through practical lifestyle adjustments.

Falls are serious at any age, but they are especially dangerous for older people who may have osteoporosis and are more likely to break a bone when they fall, says Andrew Forster, M.D. [2], a primary care physician with Baptist Health Primary Care. And when a bone breaks, the recovery may be difficult.

Some of the reasons people fall include tripping, slow reflexes, balance problems, reduced muscle strength, poor vision, illness, dehydration and medication reactions, Dr. Forster says.

“It’s usually a combination of these factors,” he added. Addressing the reasons people fall can help prevent falls and subsequent injuries. Older adults can follow these strategies to decrease their risk of falling:

1.) Talk to your doctor at least once a year about falls and what you can do to prevent them.

2.) Have an eye exam every year and update your eyeglasses when needed.

You may be wearing the wrong glasses or have a condition like glaucoma or cataracts that limits your vision.

3.) Do exercises that focus on increasing leg strength and improving balance.

“Exercises or physical therapy can be performed with a physical therapist, in a group class or at home,” Dr. Forster advised. “A Tai Chi program is a good option.”)

4.) Dress appropriately.

5.) Use a medical alert system with automatic fall detection.

“Lying on the floor for a long time after a fall is linked to serious injuries and hospital admissions,” explained Dr. Forster.

6.) Make your home safer.

7.) Talk to family members and enlist their support in taking simple steps to stay safe.

Dr. Forster added, “I encourage family members to play an active role in keeping their loved ones safe by coming to appointments and maintaining open lines of communication.”