Submitted by the Bedford Board of Health, the Council on Aging and the Fire Department
The Bedford Board of Health, Council on Aging and Fire Department urge you to Take a Stand Against Falls! According to the Centers for Disease Control, each year, more than one in four older adults aged 65 and older will fall. Among older Americans, falls are the number one cause of injuries and death from injury. Every 12 seconds, one of these older Americans is admitted to the emergency department for a fall; and every day, 74 of those will die from a fall. In Bedford, reports of falls represent one of the top medical calls to our 911 dispatch center.
Editor’s Note: Need sand to make your steps or path safer during wintry weather? Click this link to get in line for the Sand Bucket program, sponsored by several town departments and Boy Scout Troop 194.
The aftermath of a fall can be life-changing. Many of us have older family members who have fallen, or maybe we know someone in our community who has fallen and has perhaps broken a hip or suffered a traumatic brain injury due to a fall. In addition to the physical and emotional pain, many people need to spend at least a year recovering in a long-term care facility. Some are never able to live independently again. We all need to know and remind ourselves and older friends and family that falls are not an inevitable consequence of aging but we should be mindful that falls do occur more often among older adults because fall risk factors increase with age.
A fall risk factor may be a biological characteristic, a behavior, or an aspect of someone’s living or working environment. These risk factors include:
Biological risk factors
- Muscle weakness or balance problems
- Medication side effects and/or interactions
- Chronic health conditions such as arthritis and stroke
- Vision changes and vision loss
- Loss of sensation in feet
Behavioral risk factors
- Risky behaviors such as standing on a chair in place of a step stool
- Alcohol use
Environmental risk factors
- Clutter and tripping hazards
- Poor lighting
- Lack of stair railings
- Lack of grab bars inside and outside the tub or shower
- Poorly designed public spaces
Usually, two or more risk factors interact to cause a fall (such as poor balance and low vision) (Rubenstein and Josephson 2006). The more risk factors a person has, the greater their chances of falling (Tinetti et al., 1986).
What can older adults do to prevent falls?
As the leading cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries among older adults, falls will continue to soar as America’s baby boomers grow older; however, falls are not inevitable. Older Americans and their caregivers can take steps to prevent them. If you’re an older American, you can lower your chances of falling by taking the following steps:
- Talk openly with your healthcare provider about
- Tell a provider right away if you fall, worry about falling, or feel unsteady. Some medicines can make you sleepy or dizzy and can cause you to fall. Have your doctor or pharmacist review all the medicines you take—even over-the-counter medicines.
- Exercise to improve your balance and strength
- Exercises that improve balance and make your legs stronger lower your chances of falling. It also helps you feel better and more confident. An example of this kind of exercise is Tai Chi. Lack of exercise leads to weakness and increases your chances of falling
- Have your eyes and feet checked
- Once a year, check with your eye doctor and update your eyeglasses if needed. You may have a condition like glaucoma or cataracts that limits your vision. Poor vision can increase your chances of falling
- Also, have your healthcare provider check your feet once a year. Discuss proper footwear, and ask whether seeing a foot specialist is advised
- Make your home safer
- Remove things you can trip over (like 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
- Have grab bars put in next to and inside the tub, and next to the toilet
- Use non-slip mats in the bathtub and shower
The Town of Bedford urges all our residents, regardless of age, to Take a Stand Against Falls! We want our community members to live independently and pain and injury free as long as possible. Should you need help to achieve that goal, in addition to speaking to your health care provider, please contact the Bedford Council on Aging at 781-275-6825 for resources to conduct a home safety check for fall hazards and for exercise and balance programs.