When you think of your aging loved ones, what do you worry about most? Is it a heart attack or stroke cutting short their life, or perhaps cancer? While these illnesses are very real worries for everyone as they age, it may surprise you to discover that falls are the second leading cause of accidental death in the United States, and 75 percent of these falls occur in the older adult population.
Falls are the single largest cause of injury among seniors. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, older adults are hospitalized for fall-related injuries five times more often than they are for injuries from other causes.
One-third of older adults who fall, sustain a hip fracture and are hospitalized die within a year. The majority of falls resulting in serious injury occur in the bathroom.
Even if a fall does not result in hospitalization, fear of falling can become a major factor in seniors’ quality of life. Fear leads to inactivity and loss of confidence which in turn produces a cycle of fear, loss of self-confidence, poor balance and inactivity.
Dr. Roberta A. Newton, Ph.D., Temple University College of Health Professions in Philadelphia, has spearheaded efforts to study and research why falls occur and how they can be prevented. Recognizing the importance of preventing falls, Visiting Angels, a national network of franchised non-medical senior home care agencies, has partnered with Newton to increase the public awareness and importance of this sometimes overlooked issue.
To help seniors and their families find out more about falls and how to prevent them, Eagle County Healthy Aging Program, Eagle County Community Paramedic and Visiting Angels provide educational information.
As our loved ones age, it is important to recognize that things such as throw rugs that once didn’t warrant a second thought, now become household hazards. Mobility and agility limitations require a fresh look at the everyday contents of the home. Here are some easy tips to help minimize the risk of life-altering falls for your loved ones.
• Throw rugs can be a tripping hazard. Either remove them or make sure they are securely tacked down.
• Add hand rails to all stairs in the home.
• Clear clutter from walking paths, and make sure hallways and stairways are well-lit.
• Eliminate long extension cords that snake across a room. Plug lamps into outlets near the wall so cords are tucked away.
• Add permanently attached grab bars next to the toilet, tub and shower.
• Getting in and out of the tub can be hazardous. In addition to grab bars, make sure the tub has non-skid mats. A tub seat may make showering easier, too.
• Trade in floppy slippers for well-fitting slippers with non-skid soles. Also, avoid night clothing that drags on the ground.
• In areas where snow and ice are prevalent, walking sticks add to stability and can be modified to have stainless steel spike tips.
Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Eagle County. For more information, visit www.visitingangels.com/comtns or call 970-328-5526.