Each year, millions of people age 65 and older fall. In fact, more than one out of four older people falls each year, but less than half tell their health care provider. Did you know that:
- Falling once doubles your chances of falling again
- One out of five falls causes a serious injury such as broken bones or a head injury
- Each year at least 300,000 older people are hospitalized for hip fractures
- More than 95% of hip fractures are caused by falling, usually by falling sideways
- Falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries (TBI)
- Women experience three-quarters of all hip fractures
- Women fall more often than men.
- Women more often have osteoporosis, a disease that weakens bones and makes them more likely to break.
- As you get older, the chance of breaking your hip gets higher
What conditions make you more likely to fall?
Research has identified several risk factors that contribute to falling. Many risk factors can be changed or modified to help prevent falls. They include:
- Lower body weakness
- Vitamin D deficiency (not enough vitamin D in your system)
- Difficulties with walking and balance
- Use of medicines, such as tranquilizers, sedatives, or antidepressants. Even some over-the-counter medicines can affect balance and how steady you are on your feet
- Vision problems
- Foot pain or poor footwear
- Home hazards or dangers such as:
- broken or uneven steps, and
- throw rugs or clutter that can be tripped over
Talk with your providers
Tell your health care provider if you experience a fall, or if you have a near-fall. Tell them if you are feeling unsteady or are worried about falling. Your provider can help you make a plan to stay safe.
Talk with your provider or pharmacist about your medications
As we get older, the way medicines work in our bodies changes. Some medicines, or combinations of medicines, can make you dizzy or sleepy and increase your risk of a fall. Your provider or pharmacist can help review your medications and help you make a plan to stay safe.
Talk with your provider about taking a Vitamin D supplement to improve bone, muscle, and nerve health.
Exercise to improve your balance and strength
Exercises that improve your balance and make your legs stronger can help reduce your risk of falling. It also helps you feel better and more confident! An example of this kind of exercise is Tai Chi or programs like Stepping On.
Lack of exercise leads to weakness and increases your chance of falling. Talk with your health care provider about what programs may be right for you.
Have your eyes and feet checked once a year
Poor vision can increase your risk of falling. Each year, have your eyes checked by an eye doctor and update your glasses, if you need them. Your eye doctor can also help you manage diseases such as glaucoma or cataracts.
Lack of feeling in the feet, improper footwear or other foot problems can increase your risk of falling. Each year, have your feet checked by your health care provider or a specialist. Discuss whether you need proper footwear. Make sure that you wear sturdy, non-slip footwear all the time.
Make your home safer
- Remove things you can trip over (like papers, books, clothes, and shoes) from stairs and places where you walk
- Remove small throw rugs or use double-sided tape to keep the rugs from slipping
- Keep items you use often in cabinets you can reach easily without using a step stool
- Have grab bars put in next to and inside the tub, and next to the toilet
- Use non-slip mats in the bathtub and on shower floors
- Improve the lighting in your home. As you get older, you need brighter lights to see well. Hang light-weight curtains or shades to reduce glare
- Have handrails and lights installed on all staircases
- Wear well-fitting shoes with good support inside and outside the house