Falls

What are the risks of falls?

The chances of falling increase as you get older. About one third of older adults living in the community fall each year. This increases to over one half of older adults who live in nursing facilities. Most falls occur indoors during normal activities. When older adults fall, it is often related to both health problems and risks in the environment, such as slippery floors or steep stairways.

Falls are particularly risky for older adults because they are more likely to break a bone when they fall. Osteoporosis, which thins and weakens bones so that they break more easily, is a common medical problem in older adults, especially in women. Most of the time you will be able to recover quickly from a fall, but if you break a bone, you could become permanently disabled. In some cases, the injury could even shorten your life. Falls are the leading cause of accidental death in persons over 65.

For people living alone and unable to get up, falls can result in muscle injury, kidney damage, hypothermia (low body temperature), pneumonia, and sometimes even death. A serious fall often brings about a loss of confidence, fear of falling, and a dependence on others.

Why am I more likely to fall as I get older?

As you get older, your eyesight and hearing tend to get worse. Your reflexes are not as fast as they used to be, and your muscles tend to be weaker. When you trip or lose your balance, it may be harder to stop yourself from falling. Medicines or the use of alcohol may cause lightheadedness, and medical conditions such as heart disease and low blood pressure can make it easier to lose your balance. Arthritis can also throw you off balance.

What should I do after a fall?

Come to Reddy Urgent Care or call 911 after a fall, even if you don’t think you hurt yourself much. It is possible to fracture a hip and still be able to get up. Also, head injuries can be very serious. Sometimes a fall is the first symptom of a serious illness. Your healthcare provider will examine you and may order X-rays or other tests to check for broken bones and problems that might have led to the fall.

How can I help prevent falls?

  • Have your vision and hearing checked regularly.  

  • Make sure that your home is well lit, inside and out.  

  • Use a cane or walker if your provider advises it.  

  • If you are taking medicine, take it regularly and as directed.  

  • Tell your provider if you think medicine that you are taking affects your balance or causes lightheadedness or dizziness.  

  • If you are overweight, talk to your provider about weight control.  

  • Exercise daily to keep muscles in tone and help prevent osteoporosis.  

  • Eat calcium-rich food, such as dairy products and green vegetables, to help prevent osteoporosis.  

What else can I do to prevent falls in my home?

Homes can be full of hazards, such as slippery floors, worn rugs and stair treads, furniture in the way, poor lighting, and trailing electric cords.

  • Try to have nonslip floors. Use nonskid mats, especially on floors that may get wet.  

  • Carpet and stair treads should be tacked down firmly. Replace or cover worn areas of carpet or treads.  

  • Use good lighting. Have light switches at both ends of stairs and hallways.  

  • Keep a small night light on in case you need to get up at night.  

  • Don’t have loose or trailing electric cords across the floors.  

  • Arrange furniture so that it is not in the way when you walk around the house.  

  • Install grab bars for the bathtub, shower, and toilet.  

  • Do not wear clothing that is long enough to trip over.  

  • Store food and regularly used items where they can be easily reached.  

  • Be sure there are secure rails for all stairways. If possible, try to avoid trips to the basement. Move laundry facilities to the main living level.  

How can I prevent falls in my daily activities?

  • Get up slowly after lying down or resting. Sit down if you feel lightheaded.  

  • Wear rubber-soled, low-heeled shoes that fasten securely.  

  • Eat a healthy, low-fat, balanced diet, with plenty of fiber. Don’t go without food.  

  • Eat 3 or 4 smaller meals a day, rather than a single, large meal.  

  • Exercise daily to keep muscles firm and joints flexible. Stop and rest if you feel tired or faint.  

  • Limit your use of alcohol.  

  • Be careful around pets that you might trip over or that might push you down when playing.  

  • If your Reddy Urgent Care healthcare provider has advised you to use a walker or cane, always use it when you walk