You have walked the same set of stairs in your home every day for the last 30 years. Sure, you might not zip up and down with the same speed you used to, but they have never stood in your way.
Today something was different. You forgot your book on the nightstand and the weather is far too nice to pass up reading on the porch. As you hit the middle step, you suddenly feel light headed. You reach for the railing, but the whole house feels like it is spinning and you miss.
Unfortunately, this scenario is far too familiar for many older individuals and their families. As we age, falling becomes increasingly common and produces far more significant injuries than before.
Falling is the leading cause of injuries and hospital admissions for the 65+ population within the United States, according to the CDC. Falls commonly produce injuries such as sprains, lacerations, fractured bones, and even significant head trauma.
An older adult is treated in the emergency room for injuries resulting from a fall every 11 seconds. In the time it has taken you to read this far, three older adults have suffered a devastating fall. In fact, roughly 25% of Americans over the age of 65 suffer from a fall each year.
While not every fall results in a devastating injury, it is important to understand why falls occur. Physical, lifestyle, and environmental factors each can contribute to your risk of falling.
Physical Risk Factors
Physical risk factors build over time from illnesses or physical conditions that affect the way you move around. These may include: arthritis, chronic pain, diabetes, muscle weakness in legs and sensory or brain disorders. Each of these conditions can impair your balance, leading to a lack of stability, and making it difficult to complete your daily activities safely.
Lifestyle Risk Factors
Regardless of how healthy an individual is, lifestyle factors can increase the risk of falls. One common lifestyle risk factor is prescription medications. As we age, we can find ourselves taking medications to stay healthy. However, the older you are, the longer it takes for drugs to break down in your system. As a result, prescriptions such as anti-depressants, anti-anxiety or sleeping medications can give you a woozy feeling for longer periods of time, and thereby increase your risk of falling.
Another lifestyle risk factor is your exercise habits, or lack thereof. As we age, we lose strength, flexibility and balance. Exercising can seem increasingly challenging and it becomes harder to maintain the condition of your muscles. However, failing to adjust your routine to meet your abilities and abandoning exercise altogether can lead to muscular atrophy and aching joints—two conditions that dramatically increase your chances of falling.
Environmental Risk Factors
Environmental risk factors can be some of the easiest factors to control immediately once you recognize the dangers. Examples of common environmental risks are trip hazards like loose rugs, cluttered walkways, long cords, and loose stair railings. Simple steps should be taken to eliminate or mitigate these risks before they become a problem, and should be checked regularly.
If you are concerned about your loved one’s risk of falling, contact Senior Home Companions. A staff member will conduct an in-home assessment to identify risks and offer solutions. Call today to learn how our caregivers provide peace of mind and help seniors remain safe, independent, and active.