More than ‘just’ Personal Alarms, Bora Health’s series on Independent Living advice for Seniors. This week – preventing injuries from falling down.
Community interest company, Bora Health, is the exclusive Australian distributer of the SureSafe Personal Alarm.
As part of its continued commitment to elderly Australians in their quest to maintain independent living, Bora Health is launching a series of articles aimed at promoting the health and wellbeing of the baby boomers as they look to make the most of their hard earned retirement years.
This week we talk about preventing injuries from falling down.
The frequency of preventable injuries among people age 65 and older–especially product-related injuries and injuries caused by falling down–have increased dramatically year over year.
In response, National Safety Council (NSC) and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) teamed up in 2003 for a national educational campaign designed to reduce the number of preventable injuries among older Americans.
Injuries from Falling are Increasing
Falling is the leading cause of unintentional injury at home among Americans 65 and older. Older people sustain such injuries by stumbling on stairs; slipping in bathtubs; falling off ladders and step stools; and tripping over garden hoses, dog leashes, and household appliance cords.
- According to a 2003 CPSC study titled, “Special Report: Emergency Room Injuries, Adults 65 and Older”, consumers 65 and over are increasingly at risk from product-related injuries that occur in or around their homes, especially injuries caused by falling. CPSC estimates product-related injuries and deaths involving those 65 and older cost the United States over $100 billion every year.
The report also cites a number of sports-related injuries and deaths among more active seniors. For example, CPSC noted 100 drowning deaths in one year among those 65 and older, a disproportionate share. Fires are also a hazard. Cooking fires that cause burns, start house fires, or ignite clothing while older people are cooking are a major hazard for seniors.
Older People More Vulnerable
The CPSC study found that people age 75 and older are even more vulnerable. From 1991 to 2002, the number of people 75 and older who were treated in a U.S. hospital emergency room for product-related injuries increased an astonishing 73 percent. During the same period, the number of Americans in that age group grew by only 27 percent.
- In 2006, the Centers for Disease Control reported that unintentional falls were the #1 reason adults over 45 visited the emergency room. Here’s how that breaks out:
- Ages 45-54: 817,043
- Ages 55-64: 633,428
- Age 65+: 1,840,117
Each week, more than 30,000 Americans over the age of 65 are seriously injured by falling, and nearly 250 die from their injuries, according to the NSC. Of those who do survive falling, 20-30 percent experience debilitating injuries that affect them the rest of their lives. Falling is also the leading cause of injury, and the leading cause of injury-related death, for both men and women 75 and older.
Most Fatal Falls Occur at Home
According to the NSC, 54 percent of all falling-related deaths of older people are caused by seniors falling down at home, and 20 percent of those fatal falls occur in residential institutions.
The most common serious injury from falling is a hip fracture. More than 24 percent of all people suffering a hip fracture die within a year of falling, and another 50 percent never return to their prior level of mobility and independence.
“These are preventable injuries,” said CPSC Chairman Hal Stratton. “Older Americans are living longer and are more active than ever. We want them to enjoy themselves, free from debilitating injury.”
How to Reduce Your Risk of Injury from Falling
Learn how you can reduce your risk of injury from falling by making simple changes to your home and lifestyle. 4 Simple Steps to Prevent Falling offers tips on exercise, vision, medications and home safety to reduce your risk of falling.
- If you don’t have a regular exercise program, start one. Lack of exercise leads to weakness, and that increases your chances of falling.
- Exercise can improve your body balance and flexibility at any age, and increasing body balance and flexibility is especially important for people over 50.
Having a regular exercise program is also one of the most important ways that people over 50 can reduce their risk of falling. Exercise also makes you stronger and helps you feel better.
Try exercises that improve balance and coordination, like Yoga and Tai Chi. Because you work at your own level, these exercises are often suitable for people of any age.
- If you are over 50 and haven’t exercised regularly, check with your health care provider about the best type of exercise program for you.
About half of all falls happen at home. To increase accessibility and make your home safer:
- Remove items you might trip over (such as papers, books, clothes, and shoes) from stairs and places where you walk.
- Remove small throw rugs or use double-sided tape to keep the rugs from slipping.
- Keep items you use often within easy reach, so you can avoid using a ladder or step stool.
- Have grab bars installed next to your toilet, and install grab bars in your tub or shower.
- Use non-slip mats in the bathtub and on shower floors.
- Improve the lighting in your home. As you get older, you’ll need brighter lights to see well. Use lamp shades or frosted bulbs to reduce glare.
- Make sure all stairways have handrails and sufficient lighting.
- If you are a senior or have a disability, it’s best to wear shoes that give good support and have thin non-slip soles.
You might also consider avoiding lightweight slippers (especially backless styles) or athletic shoes with deep treads, which can reduce your feeling of control.
Prevent Falling: Watch Out for Medication Side Effects
- Age can affect the way some medications work in your body, so if you have been taking any over-the-counter medications for awhile, it’s important to tell your health care provider. He or she will be able to tell you if the over-the-counter medications are still safe for you to take.
- Look out for drugs–or combinations of drugs–that have side effects including drowsiness or disorientation. These side effects can increase your risk of falling.
This is especially important with over-the-counter cold and flu medications, which can often increase drowsiness.
- And don’t forget herbal remedies. Some remedies increase sleepiness and many react with other types of medication, which could increase your risk of falling down. Be sure to check with your health care provider before trying new medication, especially if you are already taking prescription drugs. And ask your doctor or pharmacist for a complete list of side effects you might expect when taking them.
Want to Prevent Falling? Have Your Vision Checked Regularly
Vision problems can increase your chances of falling.
- You may be wearing the wrong glasses, or have a condition such as glaucoma or cataracts that causes vision problems or limits your vision.
- To reduce your risk of falling, have your vision checked by an eye doctor every year for early detection and correction of vision problems. If you can’t see something, it’s harder to avoid it, and this increases your risk of falling.
Who is Bora Health?
Bora Health is an Australian, British and American owned and operated community focused company, providing elderly Australians and their families with access to the information, products and services necessary to support affordable independent living. It is the exclusive authorised distributor of the SureSafe Personal Emergency Call System; a non-monitored personal alarm (otherwise known as an auto-dialer or smart-dialer medical alert), telephone based medical alarm system for Seniors.
Click here to buy a SureSafe Personal Emergency Call System for only $229 (including GST and Express Postage). Peace of mind for you, safety and security for your loved one.