September 18-24, 2022, is National Falls Prevention Awareness Week. Each year, on the first week of fall, activities and events are scheduled by the National Council on Aging to raise awareness of the problems associated with falling and offer practical solutions to help reduce the incidence and severity of falling, particularly in older adults.
Falls are the leading cause of injury and death among older adults.
- One in four adults over the age of 65 will fall every year.
- Two-thirds of those who fall will fall again within six months.
- At least one-third of these calls are caused by environmental hazards within the home.
- Annual medical costs associated with falls and their consequences is estimated at $50 billion.
- Deaths due to falls have increased by 30% between 2007 and 2016. If this trend is not slowed, there will be seven deaths due to falls every hour in the U.S. by 2030.
As a contractor specializing in aging in place, I am often called upon to install grab bars and other fall prevention devices in people’s homes. Having something sturdy to hold on to, particularly in the bathroom, is extremely helpful in preventing falls. The first step, however, is recognizing the value and importance of fall prevention.
In my experience, many people will deny that they are at elevated risk for falling and therefore refuse to take steps to mitigate the risk. The old saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound or cure.” is very applicable to falls prevention. I recommend a home assessment and home modifications for safety, falls prevention, and accessibility for all people, regardless of age or ability.
If all homes were built using Universal Design principles, then these features would already be in place before we need them. If you would like more information on how to make your home safer, please give me a call at 540-384-2064.
Some other areas to pay attention to in order to prevent falls are remaining active, vision, medications, and chronic conditions. Often when people are afraid of falling, particularly if they have fallen before, they limit their activity and move tentatively and fearfully when they do move around. This can lead to losing strength and coordination as well as a shuffling gait. All of this can lead to a greater chance of falling again. It is a vicious cycle.
Take the initiative now to improve your strength and balance to make falling less likely. Talk to your health care professional about exercise and balance programs that are available.
Another factor that can lead to an increased chance of falling is poor vision. Getting regular eye exams, having bright, glare free lighting, and contrasting colors on surfaces such as stairs can help prevent falls associated with poor vision.
Be aware of how chronic conditions and multiple medications can increase your risk of falling. Certain chronic conditions such as diabetes, stroke, arthritis, MS, and many others can impair our functionality.
Prescription and over the counter medications can often lead to dizziness, weakness, and loss of balance, all of which can contribute to a fall.
Don’t wait until after you have fallen to take action. Take steps today to improve your strength, balance, and the safety of your home environment. Contact Chris to learn more at 540-384-2064 or by email at email@example.com.