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Strong at 65 and beyond: How to prevent senior falls

While most Americans know someone over the age of 65, most of us may not know how we can help those we love by preventing fall risks in their lives.

September 06, 2023
A group of retiree's hold a standing pose with their hands together during a yoga session.

More than 25% of Americans aged 65 and older fall each year according to the CDC. Emergency rooms treat 2.8 million senior fall injuries annually, with one-fifth of those senior falls leading to serious damage including broken bones and head injuries. And while senior falls can be devastating to the health and independence of older adults, falling isn't something that just happens as you age. Senior falls can be prevented with careful planning and proven fall prevention strategies.

Goal: Zero senior falls

Because taking a fall doubles the chance of falling again, it's best to start thinking about fall prevention earlier rather than later. Each year:

  • More than 800,000 seniors are hospitalized with fall injuries
  • At least 300,000 hospitalizations are due to hip fractures
    • More than 95% of hip fractures are caused by falling
  • Falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries (TBI)

In addition to fractures and head injuries, falls can be dangerous for people taking blood thinners because they are more likely to suffer internal or external bleeding. Even a minor fall can have serious consequences. Senior falls that don't result in injury can still make people fearful of falling again, causing them to become less active and weaker, thereby increasing the chance of falling again. It can become a vicious cycle leading to severe disability or even death.

Causes of senior falls

 
Recommended Exercise: Chair Rise Exercise infographic giving step by step directions for performing safe chair exercises.

While aging alone isn't a reason for falling, there are many age-related factors than can contribute to an increased risk for falling. Knowing your risk factors means you can address them before they become an issue.

Risk factors for senior falls include:

  • Vitamin D deficiency
  • Walking and balance difficulties
  • Medications that affect balance
  • Diminishing eyesight and hearing
  • Chronic medical conditions
  • Slipping or tripping hazards
  • Lower body weakness (from lack of exercise, being overweight or having an injury or medical procedure)

JoAnn Wilkins is a prime example, having been treated for chronic systolic heart failure at Medical City Plano. Returning to a high-stress job and working long hours left her little time for taking care of herself.

"During this time I became weaker and more unsteady," JoAnn said. "My balance was quite bad and I began falling frequently."

JoAnn's doctor sent her to Medical City Plano's cardiac rehabilitation program to help her begin to regain her energy and balance and manage stress. When she completed the program, she was encouraged to take advantage of the classes offered by Medical City Plano's Center for Living Well, home to the hospital's fall prevention program.

"I attended a class called A Matter of Balance to help with my balance and stability," said JoAnn. "Then I started taking Stability Ball and Tai Chi classes. Since beginning these I have not fallen once!"

JoAnn has reaped other benefits as well. She's lost 37 pounds without dieting and said she's healthier and feels better than she has in years.

How to prevent senior falls

 
Take Control of Your Health: 6 Steps to Prevent a Fall infographic explaining the different steps a person can take to prevent their fall risk.

Don't let fear of falling keep you from doing things that can help you avoid falls.

Here are some simple ways to stay healthy and strong.

  • See your primary care physician or specialist to discuss your:
    • Risks for falling and specific ways to address them
    • Medications to see if any of them make you dizzy or sleepy
    • Vitamin D levels and whether you need a supplement
  • Have your vision and hearing checked regularly; these important senses contribute greatly to balance and perception
    • Bifocal or progressive lenses could be unsafe for outdoor activities such as walking; they can make objects seem closer or farther away than they really are
  • Get moving like JoAnn did
    • Join a gym, incorporate strength and balance exercises at home or find classes at a fall prevention program through your local hospital
  • Inspect your home
    • Fix broken or uneven steps or walkways
    • Remove rugs, electrical cords, clutter and other unsafe objects
    • Replace burned-out light bulbs and add extra lights or brighter bulbs if needed
    • Fix loose grab bars and stair railings and add more if needed
    • Learn how to avoid icy injuries during winter

At Medical City Healthcare, we're dedicated to the care and improvement of human life. So, we hope you'll Take Care!

For more information, call our Ask a Nurse hotline 24/7 or use Find a Doctor online.

Medical City Healthcare provides comprehensive emergency services across North Texas.

You can also get care for minor injuries or illness at one of the many DFW CareNow® Urgent Care locations, with convenient Web Check-In® so you can wait in the comfort of your home.

Published:
September 06, 2023

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