Most of us have an elderly family member that we cherish. That also means we worry about our loved one. One common source of that worry is the risk of a fall. The elderly, after all, are particularly susceptible to falling and are more likely to be seriously injured if they do fall. To help you keep your loved one safe, a Carmel estate planning attorney at Frank & Kraft explains the elderly fall danger and offers tips to help prevent your loved one from falling.
Elderly Fall Facts and Figures
Most people realize that the risk of a fall increases with age; however, you may not be aware just how at-risk seniors are. Consider the following facts and figures from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
- One in four Americans aged 65 and older falls each year.
- 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 are the leading cause of fatal injury and the most common cause of nonfatal trauma-related hospital admissions among older adults.
- 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.
- In 2015, the total cost of fall injuries was $50 billion. Medicare and Medicaid shouldered 75 percent of these costs.
- The financial toll for older adult falls is expected to increase as the population ages and may reach $67.7 billion by 2020.
What Causes the Elderly to Fall?
While every fall is caused by a unique set of circumstances, there are some common factors that contribute to the average senior fall, including:
- Balance and gait: As we age, most of us lose some coordination, flexibility, and balance— primarily through inactivity, making it easier to fall.
- Vision: In the aging eye, less light reaches the retina—making contrasting edges, tripping hazards, and obstacles harder to see.
- Medications: Some prescriptions and over-the-counter medications can cause dizziness, dehydration or interactions with each other that can lead to a fall.
- Environment: Most seniors have lived in their homes for a long time and have never thought about simple modifications that might keep it safer as they age.
- Chronic conditions: More than 80 percent of older adults have at least one chronic condition like diabetes, stroke, or arthritis. Often, these increase the risk of falling because they result in lost function, inactivity, depression, pain, or multiple medications.
Preventing a Fall
If you are concerned that an elderly loved one might be at risk for a fall, there are several steps you/they can take that will significantly decrease the risk of a senior fall, according to the National Institute on Aging:
- Stay active. Plan an appropriate exercise program. Regular exercise improves muscles and makes you stronger. It also helps keep joints, tendons, and ligaments flexible. Mild weight-bearing activities, such as walking or climbing stairs, may also slow bone loss from osteoporosis.
- Test eyes and hearing. Even small changes in sight and hearing may cause a fall. When you get new eyeglasses or contact lenses, take time to get used to them. Always wear glasses or contacts when you need them and if you have a hearing aid, be sure it fits well and wear it.
- Know the side effects of medication. If a drug makes you sleepy or dizzy, tell your doctor or pharmacist.
- Get enough sleep. If you are sleepy, you are more likely to fall.
- Limit alcohol consumption. Even a small amount of alcohol can affect your balance and reflexes. Studies show that the rate of hip fractures in older adults increases with alcohol use.
- Stand up slowly. Getting up too quickly can cause your blood pressure to drop. That can make you feel wobbly. Get your blood pressure checked when lying and standing.
- Use an assistive device if needed. Appropriate use of canes and walkers can prevent falls. If your doctor tells you to use a cane or walker, make sure it is the right size for you and the wheels roll smoothly.
- Be very careful when walking on wet or icy surfaces. They can be very slippery! Try to have sand or salt spread on icy areas by your front or back door.
- Wear non-skid, rubber-soled, low-heeled shoes, or lace-up shoes with non-skid soles that fully support your feet. It is important that the soles are not too thin or too thick. Don’t walk on stairs or floors in socks or in shoes and slippers with smooth soles.
- Always tell your doctor if you have fallen since your last checkup. A fall can alert your doctor to a new medical problem or problems with your medications or eyesight that can be corrected. Your doctor may suggest physical therapy, a walking aid, or other steps to help prevent future falls.
Contact a Carmel Elder Law Attorney
For more information, please join us for a FREE upcoming seminar. If you have additional questions or concerns about elder law issues, contact an experienced Carmel elder law attorney at Frank & Kraft by calling (317) 684-1100 to schedule an appointment.