A fall is a serious health occurrence that affects people every year. However, many may overlook the dangers of falls especially compared to other health issues, such as diabetes or high blood pressure. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), more than one out of four older adults experience a fall each year (Centers for Disease Control, n.d.). While not all falls result in an injury, one in five falls cause a serious injury such as a hip fracture or head injury. As a result, these injuries can impact everyday activities and independence due to pain or decreased mobility. Additionally, these injuries can be very costly. In 2015, the total medical cost for falls was over $50 billion. In addition, falls are the leading cause of injury-related deaths among individuals over 65 (Centers for Disease Control, n.d.). Although Medicare and Medi-Cal may cover some of these costs, falls, their subsequent injuries, and associated health care costs can be avoided with preventative steps.
Fear of Falling
Falling can not only result in an injury but also a fear of falling. This fear may result in avoiding everyday activities such as walking, shopping, or participating in social activities (National Institute on Aging, 2020). As a result, this lack of activity and mobility can increase the risk of another fall. The CDC found that if you fall once, your chances of falling again double (Centers for Disease Control, n.d.). Therefore, discussing falls or a fear of falling with loved ones and your doctor is important. To some, a fall may seem like a sign of losing independence or needing extra help. This is not necessarily true, and falling should not be something you feel embarrassed or scared to talk about.
Falls can happen anywhere, both indoors and outdoors. Various factors can increase your risk of falling and the majority of falls result from a combination of these risk factors. However, these factors can be addressed to prevent future falls. The risk factors include (Centers for Disease Control, n.d.):
- Walking and balance difficulties
- Medications that affect balance (such as sedatives or antidepressants)
- Lower body weakness
- Vision problems
- Vitamin D deficiency
- Foot pain
- Environmental hazards (uneven surfaces, clutter, and other trip hazards in the home)
Fall Prevention Tips
As mentioned before, there are various risk factors that can influence your likelihood of falling. Whether you have fallen before or want to avoid falling in the future, here are different ways you can prevent falls:
- Talk to Your Doctor (Centers for Disease Control, n.d.) – Talking about falls or fall risks should be a part of your annual physical. Ask your doctorto evaluate your risk of falling and what you can do to address those risks. You can also ask about the medications you take and if any of them can impair balance by making you dizzy.
- Keep your doctor informed of falls. Even if you are not injured during a fall, it is important that your doctor knows about it so they can help prevent future ones.
- Exercise (Hayes, 2017) – Engage in strength and balance exercises to help prevent falls. One risk factor for falls is lower body weakness. So staying active and keeping strength in your legs and lower body can help avoid falls. Standing, sitting, and balance exercises such as yoga, dance, or tai chi are good options. Even walking, standing, and sitting can help strengthen your lower body. To learn more about exercising at home, read our fact sheet here.
- Check your Eyes (Centers for Disease Control, n.d.) – Keep up with your yearly eye appointments and update your glasses if necessary. Depth perception as well as seeing clearly can affect our ability to see trip hazards or objects we may fall over.
- Be Aware of the Environment (Hayes, 2017) – Watch where you are going and be aware of your surroundings. For example, uneven sidewalks or wet leaves outside can lead to a fall. Loose carpeting or spills on hardwood floors can be dangerous indoors. Be alert when walking in areas with dark or poor lighting as you may not be able to see obstructions on the ground or in front of you. Avoid rushing by taking your time walking or standing up.
- Add Safety Measures (Centers for Disease Control, n.d.) – You can make your home safer and decrease fall risk factors by getting rid of things you can trip over such as an old rug; adding grab bars to your bathroom in the shower and next to the toilet; adding railings to your stairs; and creating more light with brighter lightbulbs or a nightlight.
- Practice Safety First (National Institute on Aging, 2020) – Wear comfortable shoes and take time to break in new shoes. Try to choose shoes that have low heels, are non-slip, and are rubber soled.
- Get enough sleep. Sleepiness can increase your risk of falls. Read more about sleep in the fact sheet found here.
- Limit your alcohol intake. Alcohol can affect balance and reflexes, increasing the chances of a fall.
- Use assistive devices such as a cane or walker. These can be especially helpful when navigating areas with uneven surfaces.
Centers for Disease Control. (n.d.). Home and Recreational Safety. Retrieved on August 31, 2020 from https://www.cdc.gov/homeandrecreationalsafety/falls/index.html
Hayes, K. (2017). Slips and Falls Can Be Deadly. Retrieved on August 31, 2020 from https://www.aarp.org/health/healthy-living/info-2017/deadly-slips-falls-roger-ailes-fd.html
National Institute on Aging. (2020). Prevent Falls and Fractures. Retrieved on August 31, 2020 from https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/prevent-falls-and-fractures