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Older Adult Falls

Every 20 minutes in the United States, an older adult dies from a fall. Many more are injured. Falls are a threat to the health of older adults and can reduce their ability to remain independent.

Every year, approximately 3.7 million Americans turn 65. As this segment of the population grows, so does the number of people who are most susceptible to fall related injuries and deaths. While many falls experienced by older adults appear to be unpreventable accidents, there are proven ways to prevent and reduce falls.

What Can Happen After a Fall?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), many falls do not cause injuries; however, one out of five falls does cause a serious injury. These injuries can make it hard for a person to get around, do everyday activities, or live on their own.

  • Falls can cause broken bones, such as wrist, arm, ankle, and hip fractures.
  • Falls can cause head injuries. These can be very serious, especially if the person is taking certain medicines (like blood thinners). An older person who falls and hits their head should see their doctor right away to make sure they don’t have a brain injury.
  • Many persons, who fall, even if they are not injured, become afraid of falling. This fear may cause a person to cut down on their everyday activities. When a person is less active, they become weaker and this increases their chances of falling.

What Conditions Make It More Likely to Fall?

Many risk factors can be changed or modified to help prevent falls. They include:

  • Lower body weakness
  • Vitamin D deficiency (that is, not enough vitamin D in your system)
  • Difficulties with walking and balance
  • Use of medicines, such as tranquilizers, sedatives, or antidepressants, and even some over-the-counter medicines
  • Vision problems
  • Foot pain or poor footwear
  • Home hazards or dangers such as broken or uneven steps, throw rugs, or clutter that can be tripped over, and no handrails along stairs or in the bathroom.

Most falls are caused by a combination of risk factors. The more risk factors a person has, the greater their chances of falling.

What to Do to Prevent Falls

Everyone has a role in preventing older adult falls, including the community, health care providers, caregivers, and older adults themselves. For this reason, CDC has issued several resources to help direct falls prevention efforts.

Community-Based Organizations

CDC developed a guide to help Community-Based Organizations recognize the importance of older adult falls prevention, develop prevention strategies, implement the strategies, evaluate the prevention measures, and determine if the prevention measures are effective. Specific steps to follow in order to develop an effective older adult falls prevention program that is evidenced-based within a community are:

  • Make a plan
  • Determine organizational readiness
  • Develop partnerships
  • Select evidence-based prevention program
  • Raise awareness about prevention program
  • Implement the prevention program
  • Evaluate the prevention Program
  • Promote the prevention program
  • Sustain the prevention program

By following the steps outlined above, any community can begin the process of implementing an evidence-based older adult falls prevention program which can help prevent and reduce the number of older adult falls within a community.

Information compiled from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, http://www.cdc.gov/homeandrecreationalsafety/falls/index.html

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