September is Healthy Aging Awareness Month.1 It’s a reminder that we should listen to what our aging bodies are telling us and that we need to be sure we’re taking the right steps to reduce our risk of injury and illness. Since it is September, we’re going to talk about one of the greatest risks we face as we age: falling.
The impact falls have on older adults
The National Council on Aging2 has designated September 23 as Falls Prevention Awareness Day.3 It’s a day necessary to remind us of the impact falls can have on our ability to age with independence and dignity, and help us to maintain the active lifestyle we seek. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 4, ¼ of Americans age 65 and older fall each year. Emergency rooms across the country treat fall-related injuries every 11 seconds every single day. It is the leading cause of non-fatal trauma-related hospital admissions. The frequency and severity of these injuries cost the U.S. health system $50 billion in 2015, and that number is expected to hit $67.7 billion by 2020.
Falling can do much more than break a bone. A recent study reports that the mortality rate from falls doubled between 2000 and 2014. Why the increase? The answer is unclear but the study’s authors suggest that living longer is a likely cause.
Why we fall
To say that our increasing age is the reason we fall down is to only consider the tip of the iceberg. Common causes for falls related to aging are:5
- Poor balance (caused by diabetes, heart disease, thyroid and nerve issues)
- Medications (causing dizziness, drowsiness or confusion)
- Blood pressure
- Muscle weakness
And there are environmental risks that have always been there but now may be more of a danger due to the age-related risks mentioned above.
- Uneven ground
- Improper footwear
- Slick surfaces
How to reduce your risk of falling
Yes, millions of older Americans fall each year but that doesn’t mean you have to be one of them. There are many ways you can reduce your risk. More importantly, there are ways you can continue living the independent and injury-free life you want.
• Stay active. Routine exercise keeps your muscles strong, and your joints, tendons and ligaments flexible. Many older adults begin slowing down not because they’re injured but because of the fear that they’ll fall. Staying active is a great way to reduce the risk of becoming inactive after an injury.
• If you can’t reach it, don’t reach for it. Whether it’s a cookbook or baking dish on your kitchen’s top shelf or the light chain in the basement, overextending your reach can throw off your balance and send you tumbling. Ask someone for help or take matters into your own hands with the 31" Reacher with a weight capacity of five pounds. It’s also a great tool to have if your pet keeps losing their favorite toy under the couch.
• Grab a seat. Of all the falls that happen each year, about 80% occur in the bathroom.6 With the water and the tiles, this probably doesn’t surprise you. Taking a shower can be the most dangerous activity you do in the bathroom. Closing your eyes while washing your hair may disorient you and throw off your equilibrium. The wet tub or shower stall can make even the smallest step a hazard. To reduce your risk, consider using a Handheld Shower Head. At 6.5’ long, it makes washing hard-to-reach places easier by reducing your need to twist and turn. The Momentum Shower Chair is another great option that can help reduce the risk of shower falls. Not only is it safer because it requires minimal balance, but by giving your a place to sit and rest, it can make a nice, hot shower all the more relaxing.
• Steady your step. If you ever feel wobbly, having a hand on the Smooth Walker Walking Cane can provide some much needed confidence to your stride. Its design makes it ideal for uneven terrain. It has three shock-absorbing tips that adjust independently so you’re always in contact with the ground. It absorbs shock so it reduces stress on your hands, wrists, arms and shoulders, and its adjustable base makes it comfortable for righties and lefties alike. Having this cane at the ready means you can continue enjoying walks through the park, sightseeing on vacation or enjoying a leisurely stroll around the block. (Take a look at how easy it is to use this cane by watching this short video.) The Stand Assist Walker is another great way to keep moving without putting your body at risk by giving you the leverage and balance you may need to get up and get going from your favorite chair, the toilet or a grandchild’s school play.
Medline is healthcare’s number one choice when it comes to mobility products. Whether it’s preventing a fall or helping you recover from a fall-related injury, we have products that are designed to help you live your best life. Not sure if you need a mobility product? Take our two-minute interactive assessment here. And, of course, speak with your doctor and always listen to what your body is telling you so you don’t get hurt.
- National Council on Aging. Retrieved from https://www.ncoa.org/resources/falls-prevention-fact-sheet/
- National Institute on Aging. Retrieved from https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/prevent-falls-and-fractures
- National Council for Aging Care. Retrieved from https://www.aging.com/falls-fact-sheet/