What’s the problem?
Falls are a major health problem for older adults.
- Falls are the leading cause of injury death to people over the age of 65.
- Each year approximately 10,000 older adults die from falls or fall-related injuries.
- Falls result in approximately 200,000 hip fractures in older adults each year, half of these individuals remain disabled.
- Almost half of older adults hospitalized for a fall injury are then discharged to nursing care.
- In 1989, the cost of hospital care alone for fall injuries was more than $50 million in Washington State.
- Falls are not part of the normal aging process nor are they random – many can be prevented!
Who falls where?
Falls in the elderly are very common.
- About 25% of persons aged 65-74 who live in the community fall each year. The rate increases to over 33% among those 75 years and older.
- Over 50% of all fatal falls involve people 75 years and older who make up only 4% of the population.
- Older women experience significantly more falls than do older men until the age of 75, when the frequency becomes similar for both sexes.
- Half of elderly persons who fall do so repeatedly.
- Approximately 3/4 of the falls in older adults occur in and around the home.
- The majority of these falls occur while walking or just turning around.
Footwear acts as a support for the body.
- A study of falls in older adults showed that unsturdy footwear significantly increases the risk of suffering a hip fracture in a fall.
- Two-thirds of the falls resulting in hip fracture occurred to people wearing unsturdy shoes.
- Individuals at highest risk for fall injury, those 80 years and older, report less frequent use of “safe” shoes.
Checklist for Preventing Falls in your Home
- Increase lighting in your home by using the highest watt bulb allowed for the light fixture. Use frosted bulbs to reduce glare.
- Always turn on lights before walking into a dark room, even if you are only going in for a moment.
- Keep the light on in the bathroom at night, or use a night-light.
- Make sure stairs are well lit and there is a light switch at both the top and bottom. Mark edges of steps with non skid contrasting strips.
- Have sturdy handrails that run the full length on both sides of all stairways, extending slightly beyond the first and last step. Use handrails!
- Slip-proof the bath tub or shower with a rubber mat or non-slip decals.
- Install grab bars over the bath tub or on the shower wall. Replace towel racks with sturdier grab bars.
- Make sure all carpets have short, dense pile and edges lie flat. Tack down loose edges with double-sided carpet tape or tacks. No shag carpets!
- Scatter rugs slide and are hazardous, use skid-proof rugs or runners.
- Keep walking areas and stairs free of clutter! Are telephone and electrical cords out of the flow of traffic or taped down?
- Use a sturdy step stool or ladder to reach high places.
- Wipe up spills as soon as they occur.
- Don’t block your vision carrying bulky packages. Make more trips with smaller loads.
- Give yourself time to adjust your balance when getting up from a sitting or lying position.
The CDC’s MyMobility Plan helps families and older adults create a plan to help stay safe from preventable falls.