Falling is an inevitable part of life. How many times do you see children fall as they are learning to stand and walk? As children, falling is a crucial part of learning how to move. If it weren’t for these falls, we would never learn how to balance or control our movements. With practice, these new movements become natural and away we go.
As adults, falls tend to happen when we are not paying attention to our surroundings. Most people go through life without ever thinking about a spill, but for many, falling becomes a genuine fear.
This “fear of falling” is widespread throughout our older generation and is something that should not be taken lightly. Each year, millions of people are treated for injuries that were sustained during a fall. Most usually recover quickly and move on with their lives. However, for an older person, a fall can potentially have devastating effects on all aspects of life.
Here are some facts from the CDC about falls in the senior population:
- Falls are the leading cause of injury and death to people over the age of 65
- 30 million older adults fall every year, resulting in 30,000 deaths
- 1 out of 5 falls results in a serious injury
- At least 300,000 people suffer hip fractures each year and are hospitalized for them
- Women tend to fall more often than men
What are some factors that can contribute to falls?
No matter how many times we try to prevent falls by telling people to be careful or watch where they’re going, people are still going to fall. It’s a fact of life. Unfortunately, as our bodies age and we get older, we can no longer do the same things we used to do when we were younger. The assumption is that falling is the result of getting your foot caught on something or not paying attention to your surroundings. The truth is, external influence is only one of the major contributing factors. Here are some additional factors that contribute to falls that you should be aware of:
- Medication changes or adjustments
- Vision changes
- Foot problems or improper footwear
- Balance problems
- General decrease in muscle strength, flexibility and endurance as we age
- Nutritional deficiencies – lack of essential vitamins and minerals (Vitamin D)
- Environmental factors – stairs, curbs, rugs, water, etc.
- Subconscious fear of falling
- Previous history of falling
Loss of Independence
Over time, our bodies naturally change, it’s all part of the aging process. People usually recognize when their bodies start to age and become weaker, what they don’t recognize is the importance of acknowledging new limitations that result from these changes. For many, each new limitation signals losing a little bit more of their independence. Falling doesn’t have to signal the beginning of the end. By facing the problem head on, one can easily create a plan to help prevent future falls. Here are some tips to help prevent future falls and injuries:
- Speak with your doctor – This is your chance to have your concerns heard. Inform the doctor of any changes in your medical history, changes in medications, or side effects that may have developed since your last visit. By giving your medical provider as much information as possible, they may be able to determine what is contributing to your falls.
- Risk for falling assessment – Have your physician perform a risk for falling assessment. Together you can go over different ways to limit as many risks of falling as possible. The CDC has a risk for falling assessment that you can look over prior to your appointment.
- Exercise to help improve balance, mobility and strength – One of the leading causes of falling is muscle weakness. Our muscles naturally weaken as we age, but if we stay active, we can limit that decline. Walking, keeping up with household chores, doing yard work, taking a fitness class or doing yoga will help maintain your balance, mobility and strength.
- Regular eye exams – Make sure you see the eye doctor every year. Any change in one’s vision will play a huge role in preventing falls. If you can’t see clearly, it is hard to see potential hazards before it’s too late.
- Wear proper footwear – Having good footwear is critical, no matter your age. Shoes should be comfortable, but have a good gripping sole. The better the grip, the less likely someone is to slip and fall. You should avoid walking barefoot or in socks. It is very easy to slip in socks and walking barefoot can lead to increasing foot pain.
- Properly outfit your home – Our homes should be our true safe place. To limit fall potential in your home, it is best to be proactive. Keep all walkways and stairs free of clutter, remove or secure and loose rugs, clean spills immediately, install hand rails where necessary and put non-stick mats in the bathtub. The fewer obstacles or hazards there are, the safer it is for everyone.
- Stay hydrated – Fluid intake is essential for your well-being. Everyone should make sure to drink at least six 8-ounce glasses of water every day. Dehydration can cause changes in your blood pressure, and these changes can increase your risk of falling.
While there is no guaranteed way to prevent falls from happening, we certainly have it in us to try and limit as many falls as we can. The major key is to be proactive. The more you advocate for yourself, the better chance you have of lowering your fall risk. Nothing is more important than your safety or the safety of your loved ones.
At UBMD Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine, we have bone, joint and muscle specialists that can evaluate you if you have a history of falls. We also have rehabilitation specialists and physical therapists that can help you get back on your feet. Call us today or contact us online to schedule an appointment.