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Today: Falls Prevention Awareness Day

Right now, you who have been reading TGB for awhile, are likely groaning: Is she really going to go through the falls prevention thing again? Really?

Well, yes. Twice a year I post a reminder and time-proven advice to help us all avoid falling. I do it because it can save our lives.

Today is the first day of fall, the day the U.S. National Council on Aging chose for its annual reminders about preventing falls. This year there is some updated research that is not encouraging:

Mortality From Falls Among US Adults Aged 75 Years or Older, 2000-2016 is a study published in June 2019 in the medical journal JAMA.

The researchers discovered that the number of deaths from falls among people 75 and older more than doubled between 2000 and 2016. As The New York Times noted in its report of the study:

”In 2016, the rate of death from falls for people 75 and older was 111 per 100,000 people, they found. In 2000, that rate was 52 per 100,000 people.”

That's a huge jump in fatal falls. The study states that the researchers do not understand the increase.

Earlier statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state them differently:

Every 11 seconds, an older adult is treated in the emergency room for a fall

Every 19 minutes, an older adult dies from a fall

Falls result in more than 2.8 million injuries treated in emergency departments annually, including over 800,000 hospitalizations and more than 27,000 deaths

Obviously, those numbers will increase if the new statistics from JAMA are applied.

So what can you do to help keep yourself safe from falls. Here is a short, well-done video I've posted before – from the U.S. National Council on Aging:

This year I've discovered an excellent website about fall prevention that I had not seen before: Health in Aging.org. It is extraordinarily clear, concise and useful. Here are links to the main sections:

Basic Facts

Causes

Diagnosis and Tests

Care and Treatment

Lifestyle and Management

Unique to Older Adults

That is not the only good site on this subject - there is an abundance of information online about falls prevention. We should make good use of it because unlike cancer, dementia, COPD, heart disease and other conditions that affect so many elders, we can each have a direct effect on preventing falls.



Comments

Ronni,
I for one am more than happy for you to post this feature on a regular basis.
Dehydration was a problem with a relative who had Alzheimer’s as she didn’t drink at all unless she was encouraged to do so. I’m nearing the age group under discussion and doing all I can on your list to avoid “The Fall”

My reaction to your title was exactly as you described. But in the next second I was thinking "Prevent falls? Why would I do that? Fall is my favorite time of year." (Sorry about that. I'm in my pre-caffeinated state.)

As a resident in an assisted living facility with almost 200 seniors, falls are a part of daily life. Fortunately, because of the various safety measures built into the facility, most of those falls are not serious and require nothing more than a being helped back to their feet. Unfortunately, not everyone is so lucky. At least once a month a resident comes back from the ER with a cast or brace or sling due to a fall and contact with piece of furniture or a hard bathroom floor. But why did they fall in the first place. in many cases it's vanity. They don't think they need the walker or rollater or cane to get around and refuse to use them. We have even had residents who were asked to leave because the facility did not want to accept the responsibility.

Some good links. My fall was caused by a stroke and I didn't see that listed among their data. I'm sure this happens a lot.

Bonnie...

I get your point and there are other diseases and conditions, too, that can contribute to falling. But the point of today's post and the attendant suggestions are about what people can do themselves within their personal environments to help avoid falling, and which cause the majority of falls.

Being 85 I appreciate your bringing this to our attention. I worry about falling, even with my walker.

For those of us not too proud to use that first, light weight small-ish sized walker in the house or in a store, friends and I have learned that a medical supply store can easily replace the two front wheels with pivoting wheels that help immensely buzzing around the house or browsing in a store.

We want to stay in our homes. We want to remain independent. But many of our homes have stairs, lots of stairs. It can be a hard choice.

The video shows one big reason old people fall but says nothing about it. That would be the small dog (or cat) under foot. I've also heard of people falling due to a grandchild's enthusiastic greeting or a small child loose in a group of adults.

I haven't fallen ... yet. I almost did this morning as I took a sideways step and caught the side of my sandal on the throw rug. It was in the kitchen and I'd likely would have hit my head on something hard on the way down. Your warning is timely and worth taking seriously, Ronni.

Thanks for the info Ronni. I have a serious problem with balance and a few months back I fell 7 times in 2 months. I use cane around home and a walker when I go out. Luckily so far these falls have only resulted in aches and pains , swollen knees etc. I dont get dizzy, I just topple over. Recently I have been extremely careful when turning my head sideways or up and down. I will be 90 in December.

My 85 year old friend is 4ft 7 inches, 90 pounds, has a walking path on her property, fenced but never expected a happy puppy to get under the gate! Puppy jumped up, she went down, glasses broke, cut on forehead and badly bruised face, trip to ER! Nothing was broken , except glasses!
This is an accident that was never expected, and proof once again, you just never know! I encouraged her to take her cell phone with her to call someone in an emergency, then I realized it could go flying and would not be helpful. Family has suggested a wearable emergency device. My friend was so lucky but many are not.😟

Some people might want to consider requesting from their doctor and order for physical therapy to address balance issues — usually covered by Medicare. Some hospital associated P.T. departments can offer some interventions with balance equipment machines, other tool/devices plus recommendations for independent exercise to increase balance skills. Anyone who has previously fallen even once can especially be a good candidate for balance therapy as well as are those less secure on their feet for other reasons.

A serious lumbar herniated disc in 2008 took out my ability to stand up without support from a walker. I went to emergency back surgery and eventually was standing and walking again, and pain free. This is the good news. The bad news is that the nerves controlling the highly refined muscle adjustments controlling balance were not as efficient as before the event and I estimate my balance to be delayed by about 20%. Tripping and or losing my balance is more of a hazard now so I walk more deliberately and try not to stumble. So far I am fine, but as I age it will get worse and I will further adjust. Fall prevention is. Super important and needs constant awareness.

I like the humor in comment #2. In my mind, as I read it, there was a "badum tish" ! aka the comedy drum role!

Thank you for re-posting your Monday piece on Preventing Falls, Ronni. You no doubt have new readers and my aging brain is real adept at forgetting any variety of things...even those I plan and need to remember.

I always read all  the comments made, as the sharing other good tips helps us all.  I have mentioned earlier how I value have a rolling walker with a seat for when I leave home, but as some have mentioned it does "age" one's appearance in the eyes of onlookers.  It's their misperception only; for I feel a  lot better when I'm secure and rested with an occasional sitdown.

One final "tip". After tripping on unexpected curbing in a parking lot 4 years ago, breaking both right wrist bones and blacking an eye, I have become super cautious. I don't want to do that broken bone dance again. I could break sometime I might need later..:-)  Tried it once...didn't like it! :-) I never go out alone without my trusty walker. 

Now-I removed ALL throw rugs and attached all randon wires and cords to the base boards in my house.  The homey warmth of colorful rugs is missed but the worry is not. 

Many of the discussions on "TimeGoesBy" bring to mind a single line from Edmond Burke, Irish statesman and philosopher. circa: late 1700's. ''Early and provident fear is the mother of safety''. 
It's my argument when I refuse a hostile or numbing RX sometimes offered to us older people.
Discussions like these remind me again to be aware.    Thank you.

The trees that over the past half-century have transformed my town from "Naked City" stark edges to sweetly arbored streets are a menace for many. One friend of a friend was required to move from a walkup to an elevator building by a knee wrecked in a trip on a sidewalk raised and broken by roots. I've tripped and sprawled on the pavement myself so many times it's a genuine miracle I've never hurt more than my dignity. That out of control nanosecond is awful. I've finally forced a habit of lifting my feet each step like a clown. I feel like a fool, but it beats the embarrassment of being the pitiful old lady concerned strangers rush to rescue. Now if I could just think of a way other than a ladder to get to and from my sleeping loft. A Times profile mentioned vertigo had made a 94-year-old neighbor abandon his loft. I'm holding out. --d

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