National Senior Independence Month

February is National Senior Independence Month, and while many are doing their part in promoting healthy living, caregiving and exercise, it is equally important to stress the risk of falls, and to join in promoting fall prevention this month. According to the CDC, one out of every three adults age 65 and over falls each year. Falling is also the leading cause of accident related deaths for this age group. This makes falling one of the single highest threats to the independence of seniors. It is for this reason that we are going to dedicate an entire blog post to the topic of fall prevention this month; in spreading awareness, and helping prevent accidents, while promoting senior independence.

Important Statistics

According to the CDC, falling is a serious and costly issue facing those 65 and older, and their website has listed the following shocking statistics:

  • 1 of 5 falls causes a serious injury–broken bones or a head injury.
  • Over 300,000 seniors are hospitalized annually for hip fractures.
  • Nearly 3 million seniors are treated in the ER for injuries resulting from a fall.
  • Over 800,000 seniors are hospitalized yearly for fall injuries. Hip fractures and head injuries are the most common.
  • Over 95% of hip fractures are caused from falling, and usually onto one’s side.
  • The most common cause for traumatic brain injuries is falling.
  • The annual cost incurred from fall injuries is $31 billion. 2/3 of this results from hospital costs.

After a Fall

After a person falls, they are likely to suffer from broken bones. Common breaks from falling include wrists, arms, hips and ankles. They may also suffer a head injury. Head injuries can be serious, and medications such as blood thinners can make them even more dangerous. If a senior has hit their head, they should see a doctor immediately to rule out brain injury. Even if the senior has fallen and was lucky enough to escape serious injury, a fall can have debilitating mental effects that could cause the person to become fearful of falling again. This is likely to interfere with their normal daily routines, and cause them to become less active. Being less active is only going to increase their risk of a future fall more in the long run, so a good therapist may be essential after a loved one has experienced a fall.

Risk Factors

The Center for Disease Control has identified the following factors for increased risk of falling. Most falls are the result of a combination of risk factors, and the more factors someone has, the higher their risk of experiencing a fall.

  • Vitamin D deficiency
  • Weak lower body
  • Troubles walking or balancing
  • Foot pain, or poorly made footwear
  • Medications that affect one’s balance (over-the-counter or prescription)
  • Home hazards
    • Uneven or broken steps
    • Lack of handrails next to stairs or in the bathroom
    • Throw rugs or clutter that one may trip over

If you have a special senior in your life who would like to remain independent, here are some practical tips from Seniors Speak Out, a senior advocacy group, to help seniors maintain independence at home and in the community:

Declutter

An organized environment is great for both body and soul! Clear, well- lit walkways in the home help decrease the risk of trips and falls, while keeping necessary items like cell phones close at hand and readily accessible is vital in the event of an emergency.

Upgrade

A little preventive maintenance can be a lifesaver. Have banisters on stairs and railings on decks checked for looseness. Light up dark hallways and closets with motion-sensor lights to prevent falls. Installing grab bars in the bathroom is a great idea as well, provided they are installed before they’re needed. A little foresight goes a long way!

Get Tech Savvy

That cellphone can literally be a lifesaver. Set up with speed-dial for favorite contacts, it’s a senior’s link to the world. Cellphones can also serve as location devices as well as maps and navigation aids. Most are even equipped with a fairly bright flashlight. Home security systems can protect against theft and property damage, but their value doesn’t end there; motion sensing lights can detect intruders and fend off any unwanted guests, while providing welcome light when you need it.


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