According to the National Council on Aging (NCOA), falls are the leading cause of both fatal and nonfatal injuries for people over age 65. Because the key is to know where to look, the NCAO lists the following common factors that can lead to a fall:
- Balance and gait: During the aging process, people commonly lose some coordination, flexibility, and balance, primarily through inactivity, making it easier to fall.
- Vision: In the aging eye, less light reaches the retina, making contrasting edges, tripping hazards, and obstacles harder to see.
- Medications: Some prescriptions and over-the-counter medications can cause dizziness, dehydration, or interactions with each other that can lead to a fall.
- Environment: Most seniors have lived in their homes for a long time and have never thought about simple modifications that might keep it safer as they age.
- Chronic conditions: More than 90% of older adults have at least one chronic condition like diabetes, stroke, or arthritis. Often, these increase the risk of falling because they result in lost function, inactivity, depression, pain, or multiple medications.
The following six steps are recommended by the NCOA to reduce falls:
- Enlist the support of older loved ones in taking simple steps to stay safe. For example, the NCOA recommends sharing its article “Debunking the Myths of Older Adult Falls.” It may be necessary to discuss concerns with a healthcare provider who can assess the risks and suggest programs or services that could help.
- Discuss your older loved one’s current health conditions. This includes taking advantage of all the preventive benefits now offered under Medicare, such as the Annual Wellness visit. Encourage them to speak openly with their healthcare provider about all of their concerns.
- Ask about their last eye checkup. If your older loved one wears glasses, make sure they have a current prescription and they’re using the glasses as advised by their eye doctor.
- Notice if they’re holding onto walls, furniture, or someone else when walking or if they appear to have difficulty walking or arising from a chair. These are all signs that it might be time to see a physical therapist.
- Talk about their medications. In particular, beware of non-prescription medications that contain sleep aids, including painkillers with “PM” in their names. These can lead to balance issues and dizziness.
- Do a walk-through safety assessment of their home because there are many simple and inexpensive ways to make a home safer.
The NCOA website provides helpful information in many areas to improve the lives of older adults.
If you or your loved one is injured in a fall, contact the personal injury attorneys at Bye, Goff & Rohde for a free consultation.