People don’t just fall because they become elderly. There are many factors involved. A slip & fall accident may seem unlikely to happen, but slip and fall accidents can occur at any age in any home with a higher risk for the elderly (and seniors aging in place). In fact, 1 in 3 adults age 65 and older fall each year, reports the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Slip & fall accidents are the main cause of injuries to seniors in their homes, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. The risk of accidents increases as we age as well as the risk of serious injury resulting from a fall, leaving many elderly dependent and with home care, hospitalization or long-term care.
Many accidents may result in a bruise or cut but falls by the elderly can cause much more serious injuries including hip fractures, head injuries or even death. The CDC reported that 2.3 million nonfatal fall injuries among older adults were treated in emergency departments in 2010.
Aside from medical and rehabilitation costs, these injuries can limit or take away elderly mobility and independence. As you work to help yourself or a loved one age in place, it is important to take fall risk seriously and prevent as many accidents as possible from ever occurring.
Whether it’s for your home or a loved one, it is important to be aware of potential dangers in order to minimize fall occurrences. Slip & fall accidents can be caused by several risk factors including environmental, health and medications.
Slip & Fall Accidents & the Environment
Many slip & fall accidents could have been prevented. Something as simple as removing a rug on the floor, picking up an object lying on the stairs or replacing a burnt out light bulb in a walkway could save a senior from serious injury. Pay close attention to stairways and bathrooms, which are especially dangerous areas.
Other things to look for are spills and other wet areas on the floor such as at the front door where outside weather may be dragged in on shoes. The kitchen and, again, bathroom floors are highly susceptible to spills and slick surfaces. Make sure all liquids are carefully cleaned off the floor.
There are environmental hazards in everyone’s home and many ways to help prevent slip & fall accidents.
There are many physical conditions and medical problems that could contribute to the increasing prevalence of falls in the elderly. Aging changes such as degenerating eye sight, muscle weakness and balance issues increase the dangers in a home. Proper lighting, handrails and removal of clutter can help reduce the likelihood of falling for seniors facing these issues.
Twenty to 30% of falls result in moderate to severe injuries, according to the CDC. However, other health problems can make a fall more likely to happen and the result even more devastating. Osteoporosis, arthritis and Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia not only can cause slip & fall accidents, but seniors with these conditions are likely to suffer serious injury from falls and maybe even death.
Many medications can have side affects such as dizziness, confusion or drowsiness, which increase your chances of falling. The more medications you take, the more likely you are to fall, reports the National Institute on Aging. Taking 4 or more prescription drugs or recently starting a new medication increases the risk of falling. If you feel dizzy or unsteady, tell your physician. It’s also important to check drug interactions if you are taking multiple medications. Seniors and the elderly should always check with your doctor about any medication you begin as even over the counter medications could cause problems.
Lastly, if an elderly person has fallen, he may develop a fear of falling again. It is important to help them settle back into his home, help him prevent future falls by safeguarding the home and speak with him and his doctor about other ways you can prevent slip & fall accidents.
If you fall, speak with your doctor because there could be a new medical problem. Most importantly, try to prevent the falls in the first place.
1. Center for Disease Control and Prevention
2. National Institute on Aging, Senior Health.
3. Consumer Product Safety Commission