One in three seniors – aged 65 and older – are now likely to report a fall at a medical facility like a hospital or to a doctor. Even more astounding is that one in five that do fall are likely to suffer from serious injury, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institute on Health’s National Institute on Aging.
While it may seem like a dismissive issue or something that’s not likely to affect you or your loved ones, falling can increase the onset of a fatal condition as well as be fatal. Studies have found that the rate of falls severe enough to cause harm has nearly doubled over a 10-year period.
There are a number of reasons that, as we age, individuals are more prone to falling than any other portion of the population. For example, balance functionality within our ears can begin to decrease causing someone to be more prone to falling.
Additionally, vision-related issues can also have an impact on increasing someone’s risk for falling. Easy steps to take to prevent this include having your hearing and vision tested frequently. If you receive new glasses or contact lens as well as a hearing aid, ensure that each is properly fitted to and be seated while getting used to these new items.
Falling can also be caused by weakness, bone loss and decreasing muscle strength. Individuals prone to falling or heading into these potentially life-threatening ‘falling’ years are encouraged to obtain at least 150 minutes of physical activity each week. It’s also important to offset the affects of bone loss by ensuring that calcium is a part of the daily diet, which helps treat osteoporosis.
Hypotension can also be attributed to falling. This is when blood pressure drops when you stand or get up from lying down causing dizziness.
Other reasons that individual’s fall can be directly attributed to medications that are taken for other health-related conditions. A serious increase in the diagnoses of diseases such as diabetes, stroke, Parkinson’s disease, heart disease and arthritis — all of which are associated with medications that may increase the potential for falling.
It may also be that the number of falls has risen because individuals are living longer in society. However, that may mean that more individuals are living in poorer health longer than expected because of medications and procedures that extend the life expectancy.
For many seniors, the risk of falling is an added diagnosis leading to poorer health because they live in fear of being active worrying that they may fall. This can lead to an increased number of health conditions such as anxiety and depression.
Health care providers both in senior living centers and at medical facilities are seeing such an increase in falls that the only way to decrease this is to educate the aging population and their family caregivers on preventative measures.
One such way to accomplish this is to actual fall-proof the home where a senior may live. Some architects are using specialized goggles to better understand how a senior may view an interior as they age. This is helping to construct more fall-proof senior living homes, but that is also further off in the future and those that are at risk are facing hazardous falls today.
Ways to fall-proof a senior’s living area include ensuring rugs and carpets are firmly attached to the ground. Use nightlights in restrooms, hallways and near stair openings as well as on common paths around the house. It may also mean that grab bars are installed in areas where falls often occur including bedrooms and restrooms – near bathtubs and toilets.
Additionally, keep items used frequently located on lower shelves or within easier reach. Don’t ever try to stand on a chair to reach something high up – ask a family member to move it lower for you or wait for assistance, as this is exactly how falls happen to those who still feel they can move freely without falling.
It’s also extremely important for someone that has fallen to let his or her doctor know. Even if there are no symptoms following a fall, the risk is still high for things like internal bleeding or fractured bones. Falling doesn’t just affect the person– it is something that caregivers, family members and medical practitioners are all preparing for dealing with.
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