As we get older, our risk for a fall increases. In 2018, 1 in 4 older Americans reported a fall (about 36 million total), of which 8 million led to injuries that limited regular activities or resulted in a medical visit.
Not every fall produces an injury, but 1 in 5 causes a serious one, such as a broken bone or head injury. They can make it difficult for people to care for themselves or live independently.
In fact, falls can be deadly. In 2019, falls among adults 65 and older were responsible for more than 34,000 deaths, making it the largest cause of death due to injury in that group.
At Coastal Pain Medicine, medical director Dr. Patrick Brennan and our staff know that while falls are common in the elderly, they aren’t a required part of getting older.
That’s why we want to impress upon our patients and caregivers in the Pompano Beach, Florida, area that there are steps you can take to protect your loved one from slips and falls.
Slips and falls are more common among the elderly than their younger counterparts because older people tend to have more medical problems, and because they’re subject to age-related deterioration of the muscles and bones.
These can lead to walking difficulties, a loss of feeling in the lower limbs, and unstable joints.
Visual problems, including glaucoma, cataracts, and age-related macular degeneration, as well as cognitive decline, compound the problem because the individual may not even be aware they’re at risk for a fall.
A final component is that, as you get older, you’re also likely to take more medications, and the side effects can impair both sensory perception and walking ability.
Before you can implement protections for your loved one, you need to assess their strengths and limitations.
Together, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Geriatric Society recommend a yearly slip-and-fall screening for every person 65 years and older. If the screening shows an increased fall risk, bring them in for a detailed assessment, a series of specific tasks designed to identify and mitigate risk.
To complete that assessment, the CDC developed a program called STEADI (Stopping Elderly Accidents, Deaths, and Injuries). It includes three parts: screening, assessing, and intervention (recommendations to reduce your risk of falling).
The screening consists of questions such as:
If you require an assessment, Dr. Brennan performs specific tests to determine your strength, balance, and gait.
As the caregiver, you’re in the best position to implement interventions to reduce fall risk. Below are some basic suggestions; consulting an occupational therapist can generate other ideas tailored to your loved one’s health and lifestyle.
Every area in the house should be well-lit, especially at the top and bottom of stairs, and make sure your loved one knows to put the light on before they go up and down. Also, have adequate light readily available if they have to get up in the middle of the night.
All stairs should have two secure rails, one on each side, that your loved one can hold onto when going up or down. If movement is an issue, consider adding in an escalator chair they can ride.
Bathrooms, and especially the tub/shower area, are inherently slippery. Install grab bars both in the tub/shower and near the toilet, at the proper height so your loved one can reach them easily.
Make showering even safer by providing a shower chair and a hand-held shower head, or by installing a walk-in bathtub.
Speak with Dr. Brennan about the possibility of physical therapy for your loved one. PT strengthens the muscles and bones and improves balance and gait, all of which decreases the risk of falls. An assistive device such as a walker or cane can also prove helpful.
Are you afraid your loved one is at risk for a serious fall? We at Coastal Pain Medicine can help. To schedule an evaluation with Dr. Brennan, call our office at 954-833-8552, or book online with us today.