Autumn is one of my favorite times of year with the changing color of the woods and the crisp, cool air. However, this isn’t a discourse on the beauty of fall as a season, but rather a discussion on the danger of falling. Every second of every day, an adult 65-years old or older falls, and one quarter of those falls will result in that person needing additional care. In the United States the cost to our health system from falling amounts to 50 billion dollars each year. As the population ages and we have more people living longer, there will be more falls occurring. Falls have become the leading cause of injury and death for older Americans.
For the elderly, measures to prevent falling become a priority because the outcomes are often so poor. First, there is the embarrassment that comes from a fall. We don’t like sitting or lying of the floor – that’s what children do and where they play, not adults. Oftentimes we cannot get up unaided. That increases our feelings of being dependent on others. Many of us will stop doing activities that we feel put us at risk, like taking a walk outside, for fear of slipping on the ice or tripping, but that can have unintended consequences. When we don’t exercise like we used to, it can cause us to lose flexibility, muscle strength and muscle tone. That actually puts us at risk of falling more often.
We are also afraid of falling because of the likelihood that injury will result in hospitalization and open the door to being admitted to a nursing home. Most of us want to age at home, not in a nursing facility, so falling poses a greater risk of sending us down a path we don’t want to travel.
Obviously, the best solution is to not fall in the first place. Steps to prevent falls are a crucial part of any solution, but each person should be evaluated as an individual with person-centered planning in place.
There are many steps one can take to reduce the risk of falling. These include increasing exercises that promote better balance, evaluating mobility aids like walkers and wheelchairs, and reevaluating the individual’s needs and how they change over time. Some solutions are simple, like increasing the lighting in the room. Some are more complex, like changing floor surfaces and height of furniture.
Taking a tumble can be a life-changing event. For a list of fall prevention tips, please contact Disability Network Lakeshore at 616.396.5326.
“The State of Falls Report” by Safely You, Sept. 9, 2022.
“The Ultimate Guide to Reducing Falls in Memory Care During COVID-19 Pandemic” by Safely You.