Q: Several years ago I had a total knee replacement. I thought that would not only resolve severe pain but also put an end to several falls I had been having. Unfortunately I have fallen several times recently and now I am really frightened of a serious injury. I have quite a few friends who are in a similar situation. Is it inevitable that when you get older falls are going to be a part of your life?
A: Your question is very timely since September 23rd is the 10th annual National Falls Prevention Awareness Day sponsored by the National Council on Aging. Falls are the leading cause of injury related emergency department visits for older adults, the major cause of hip fractures and account for half of all fatal head injuries.
Forty percent of nursing home admissions are due to an older adult falling.
These statistics should be a wake up call for all older adults and their family members.
It is perfectly understandable you are worried about what the next fall could mean for you. This is actually a normal response for many older adults who have fallen whether they were injured or just shaken up. The fear of falling tends to change the way a person walks and create a situation where they may be prone to stumble and fall. As a person ages their vision may be compromised, loss of muscle tone and strength can put them more at risk for falls. This does not mean falling is inevitable as a person ages. There are numerous steps a person can take to reduce this risk.
Individuals should take a look around their home and make changes to reduce hazards such as removing clutter on floors and removing or repairing loose carpets/slippery throw rugs. Grab bars should be installed in bathrooms (tubs/showers and near toilets) and sturdy handrails should be installed for all stairs (inside and outside).
Adequate lighting is important to reduce shadows. If possible live on the first floor or at least limit the number of times you go up and down to the second floor.
Seriously consider attending a falls prevention program. The sessions will provide additional information on how to prevent falls, demonstrate exercises to increase strength and balance, and teach you how to get up once you have fallen. Half of all older adults who are injured as a result of a fall do not resume independent living so it is vital to take measures for protection. For information on where to find a falls prevention program call 978-946-1211.
Are you struggling caring for an older adult or having difficulty locating resources? Our staff is available for a no-cost consultation, set up at your convenience, to help guide you through your caregiving experience. For more details or to schedule an appointment, please call 800-892-0890.
Do you have a question? We encourage inquiries and comments from our readers. Please direct your correspondence to firstname.lastname@example.org or Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley, Inc., Age Information Department, 280 Merrimack Street, Suite 400, Lawrence, MA 01843. Joan Hatem-Roy is the Chief Executive Officer of Elder Services of Merrimack Valley and North Shore.