One out of every four senior citizens will fall this year. And the consequences of that fall can be serious: the most common way for a senior citizen to lose their ability to live independently is through a fall. Awareness is key to preventing falls and preserving independence.
By the Numbers
#1: the ranking of falls as cause of fatal injuries in senior citizens
#1: the ranking of falls as cause of nonfatal injury-related hospital admissions in seniors
25%: the percentage of seniors that falls each year
20%: the percentage of senior falls that cause a serious injury, such as a head injury or a broken bone
200%: the increased likelihood of a fall within 12 months, if a senior has already fallen once
11 seconds: how often a senior is brought to an emergency room due to a fall
19 minutes: how often a senior dies due to a fall
3,000,000: the number of seniors treated for fall-related injuries in emergency rooms each year
850,000: the number of seniors admitted to hospitals each year due to falls
29,000: the number of seniors who die each year from falls and complications from falls
Risk Factors for Senior Falls
Chronic health conditions, such as heart disease, dementia, and low blood pressure are associated with an increased risk of falling.
Moreover, seniors with chronic health problems are more likely to take multiple medications. These medications, by themselves and in combination, can increase dizziness, vision problems, and confusion, which also increase the likelihood of a fall.
As seniors reduce their activity level, they also reduce their muscle strength, which makes them more vulnerable to falls.
Senior falls are not inevitable. The following tips will help seniors lower their risk of falling.
- Exercise Seniors should participate in appropriate exercise to increase muscle strength and improve balance.
- Medication Management Healthcare providers should review medications prescribed to seniors with an eye toward reducing their fall risk.
- Vision Management Seniors should have annual eye exams, and always wear glasses with a current prescription.
- Home Management Most falls occur in the home, so it is important to make sure the environment is clutter-free, well lit, and offers easy access to objects the senior uses most frequently. The National Council on Aging (NCOA) offers a checklist of ways to fall-proof a senior’s living quarters.
In seniors, falls are dangerous but avoidable. Taking the time to address fall risks will increase both the length and quality of a senior’s life.