Preventing Falls

 
Preventing Falls image

Thomas Connolly, M.D.
Boys Town Orthopaedics 

More than one-third of adults ages 65 and older fall each year in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). These injuries are the most common cause of hospital trauma admissions and the leading cause of death among older adults.

It happens quickly and often without warning. You slip on a patch of ice, miss the bottom step or trip over the corner of a rug. We have all had such mishaps, but as our body ages, our resilience to bounce back dramatically decreases.

The CDC suggests that 20-30% of people who fall suffer moderate to severe injuries such as hip fractures or head traumas. Other common bone fractures include spine, forearm, leg, ankle, pelvis, upper arm and hand.

Fear is a huge component to fall injuries. Adults who have fallen develop a fear of falling again. As a result they limit activities such as exercise, which is crucial to maintaining balance, coordination and strength. By diminishing these mobile activities based on the fear of future injuries, their bodies can rapidly become fragile and unknowingly have just increased their actual risk of falling.

Boys Town Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine offers tips to help reduce the risk of falling:

  • Develop an exercise program that incorporates balance, range of motion and strength components
  • Improve lighting conditions in living and working areas
  • Schedule an annual eye examination
  • Eliminate tripping hazards in your home such as throw rugs and install safety devices as needed such as grab bars
  • Talk to your physician about medications you are taking that may impair your balance or coordination

When to Contact Your Physician

Consult with your physician if you continue to experience pain, numbness or tingling in the body, swelling or severe bruising or under the skin bleeding after a fall. If you are over 65 years, please consult with your physician after any fall or trauma to the body. Always contact your physician if you have any questions regarding your health.

Caring for a Loved One

  • If you are caring for a parent or loved one who lives on his or her own, make a point to speak to or see them every day.
  • In case of inclement weather, please advise them to remain in their homes.
  • If a fall does occur that requires medical attention:
    • Check to make sure he or she is conscious
    • Call 911
    • Tend to your loved one until help arrives. If this is a back or neck injury or you cannot tell, do not move the person.