“Help! I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up!” Chances are you have seen the commercial, exaggerated acting and all. However, the issue of older adults falling is a serious matter. The number of fall-related injuries has increased with the aging of our population. Based on what we typically see in news stories, it’s easy to conclude that car accidents or serious illnesses would be the main cause of fatalities. However, what we generally don’t see reported on the news is the fact that nearly 30,000 deaths each year are associated with falls, which makes it the leading cause of fatal injury, nationwide. A staggering 2.8 million people are treated for fall related injuries in the ER annually. In fact, it is estimated that 1 out of 3 adults aged 65 and older will fall each year.
Falls are a major threat to the independence and quality of life of older adults. Even though many nursing home placements are temporary, the physical consequences of falls tend to be a strong predictor of long-term placement in a nursing care facility. The cost of these facilities can vary from state to state, and the average between a semi-private and private room will cost about $239 per day, which adds up to $87,252 per year! These sobering facts reveal that injuries sustained from falling not only affect people physically but can have serious financial and emotional implications as well.
During the winter of 2008, I was rushing to drop off something at my daughter’s school, and slipped on the ice, taking a hard fall on my left knee! It was a very stressful and lengthy recovery process and had an impact on my family as they had to care for me and pick up the slack around the house. Ever since that happened, I have been extremely cautious when it comes to walking on ice.
Falling can be a very traumatic experience, leading many people to become fearful of falling. Unfortunately, this fear causes individuals to restrict activity level, which increases the risk of falling by causing loss of muscle and strength. Some factors associated with a fear of falling include previous falls, poor health, functional decline, reduced balance, poor muscle strength, impaired gait, and fear of pain. This fear is more prevalent in women and contributes to a higher percentage of women falling than men.
Here are four ways technology can help prevent and assist in the event of falls:
- The voice activated “Alexa” can alert help if a fall occurs
- Consider carrying your cell phone with you, especially if you’re working outside.
- Apple watch just announced their service that calls for help if someone has fallen.
“One of the most common injuries is falls,” Apple COO Jeff Williams said during the presentation. With the redesigned Apple Watch Series 4, it will automatically detect if you’ve fallen and ask you if you want to send an Emergency SOS. If you’ve been immobile for one minute after the fall, the Watch will automatically call emergency services and send your location to your emergency contacts, Williams added.”
- The service “Life Alert”, is a necklace that can be worn, and activated if a fall occurs.
It is also a good idea for family members to call and check in with their loved ones regularly. Also, pay attention if you notice that a neighbor’s newspapers, mail, or garbage cans have not been brought back to the house.
The following are 10 potential home hazards and practical suggestions to prevent falls:
- Make sure furniture is not blocking a safe path.
- Secure loose throw rugs by taping them down.
- Clear any items from the floor or steps such as books, magazines, shoes, blankets, etc.
- Tape down any wires or cords that could be tripped on. If needed, have another outlet installed.
- Stairs and steps should be checked for any loose or uneven steps, or protruding nails or screws.
- Modify any poorly lit areas (stairs), which can be easily changed by replacing lights with brighter LED bulbs.
- Place regularly used items in a reachable area to not have to step up. If a step stool is needed, be sure it is stable and there is a grab bar nearby.
- Install grab bars and non-slip mats in the bathroom to avoid slipping.
- If you have pets, always be alert and aware of where they are as not to trip over them.
- Exercise to improve strength and balance.
It’s good to have an awareness of any of the above potential hazards and make modifications as necessary. If you need assistance, you can contact your local Fire Department to schedule a time for them to come to your home. They will assess and identify hazards and establish ways to mitigate any issues. There are some easy and practical solutions, and it doesn’t necessarily require a full home make-over to make modifications and improvements.
We hope the only Fall you encounter will be the lovely season of Autumn. Take care and be safe!
Fall Prevention Awareness Day (FPAD) is September 22nd and is designed to raise awareness on the prevention of fall-related injuries. National, state, and local partners collaborate to provide education about the impact of falls, prevention strategies, and expansion of evidence-based community fall prevention programs. You can learn more about these efforts by visiting the website below:
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