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Falls are a dangerous health epidemic, particularly harming our aging population. That’s why The National Council on Aging (NCOA) has designated the first day of fall (September 22nd) as National Fall Prevention Awareness Day.
One in four seniors will fall each year and many of the falls are unexpected. In fact, the first indicator that someone is a fall risk is often the fall itself. Falls are one of the leading drivers from independent to assisted living. They result in more than 3 million emergency room injuries annually, including 850,000 hospitalizations and more than 29,000 deaths. And, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), every 20 minutes an older American dies from a fall.
But, there is good news. Falls can be prevented, and if a fall does occur, immediate assistance and support can prevent a potential emergency room trip or even save a life.
It’s also important to understand that falling is not an inevitable part of aging. Understanding the common risk factors for falls, and taking a few practical steps, can help prevent many falls and help seniors stay healthy and independent much longer.
Some of the most common risk factors for falling:
- Physical changes in your body, including loss of strength, coordination, flexibility and balance, as well as vision loss that makes it harder to see trip hazards;
- Hazards in your home, such as cords running across the floor, mess gathered on stairways and walkways, or even the arrangement of your rugs and furniture can lead to slipping or falling;
- Side effects, such as dizziness, sleepiness, or dehydration, from many common medications.
There are practical steps you can take to help prevent falls. First, and most important, is to get some exercise. While all exercise is good for you, the best exercises for preventing falls focus on leg strength, flexibility, and balance. Second, review your medications with your doctor or
pharmacist. Have them check for possible drug interactions or side effects that may put you at greater risk for falling. Third, have your vision checked annually, and get new glasses when your prescription changes. Turn on more lights to help you see possible hazards when you’re
working or walking into a room. Fourth, make your home safer. Install railings and grab bars.
Make sure you keep your stairways and walkways clear. Replace slippery throw rugs with rubber-backed ones, or just get rid of extra rugs altogether.
Finally, be sure to have a way to summon immediate help if you do fall. Invest in an automatic fall detection technology in the form of a wearable device such as a wristband or belt clip device. It’s important that it’s comfortable to wear and will be on in any situation. The time spent on the floor after a fall can lead to even more hazardous health outcomes.
For more information about falls, safety and wearable devices: Click Here.