My 75-year-old wife fell in our home last week, fracturing her hip. What can we do to prevent this from happening again?
Falls are the most common cause of accidental injury among seniors in the United States. Each year, more than one-third of Americans over the age of 65 who live in the community suffer a fall, resulting in roughly 13,700 deaths.
Older people are more likely to fall, says Lewis A. Lipsitz, M.D., of Hebrew SeniorLife's Institute for Aging Research, because they have illnesses and take medications that can impair their balance, vision or strength, or reduce their blood pressure level so that enough blood doesn't get to the brain. Older adults are also more susceptible to osteoporosis, a condition that causes loss of bone mass. Osteoporosis sufferers are at greater risk of broken bones if they fall.
Studies indicate that the bathroom is the most dangerous room in the home, with slippery tub and shower floors, poor lighting, and loose or wobbly toilet seats as the leading causes of falls. Living rooms, bedrooms and hallways are the next most dangerous because of loose throw rugs and electrical cords, and slippery floors.
A leading expert on falls, Dr. Lipsitz says prevention is the key to reducing falls among older adults. He offers the following tips:
- If you take blood pressure medication, ask your doctor if you can take it between meals to avoid a large drop in blood pressure after eating;
- Take prescribed medications as ordered by your physician, and be careful of interactions with other drugs;
- Have your eyes and ears examined annually; and
- Take safety precautions in your home, including removing scatter rugs, taping down electrical and telephone cords, installing grab bars in bathrooms, and keeping your home well lit.
While falls are a serious health problem among seniors, taking the necessary precautions can go a long way in reducing the likelihood of falls occurring both within and outside of the home.
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