When it comes to falls – “I’m the winner!”
I was speaking with an older patient and his wife and touched on the topic of home safety and falls. The patient has Parkinson’s disease and is particularly at risk for falls. When I asked how he was doing with falls, he didn’t miss a beat by stating, “I’m the winner!”
On one hand, I have to respect him for his light-hearted approach to a serious subject. But on the other hand, when you look at the statistics from the American Council on Aging, you really see how fall prevention is so important.
- Once every 11 seconds, an older American is treated in an emergency room for a fall.
- Once every 19 seconds, an older American dies from a fall.
- Falls are the leading cause of non-trauma related injuries in older populations and the leading cause of fatalities in older Americans.
- In 2017, the cost of fall injuries was $31 billion dollars and expected to reach $60 billion as America ages into 2020
There’s the old joke is about the guy who found out that most accidents happen within 25 miles of home – so he moved. Life just doesn’t work that way. How do we improve fall statistics and protect older Americans from falls? The first step is to perform a home assessment.
- Check for hand holds, not just in the bathroom but in areas of frequent travel like the kitchen and bedroom.
- Remove throw rugs.
- Check for loose edges of carpet or door thresholds.
- Wear supportive, laced shoes.
- Learn how to focus on the task at hand.
In my practice, the most common location that patients describe falling is the front porch. As you leave the house, you’re typically preoccupied with the task at hand; going to the store, finding car keys, etc. And the change in light from darker inside to lighter outside affects the ability to focus on exiting the home and descending the steps. That’s why focus is so important – focus on the task at hand.
The National Council on Aging and the National Falls Prevention Resource Center leads the Falls Free Initiative, a national program for fall prevention. The Falls Free initiative involves more than 70 national organizations acting to fund fall prevention and bring to attention the significance of falls in the aging.
For more information on the Falls Free Initiative, go to ncoa.org/fallsprevention.