Avoiding Slips and Falls As You Age

When you are young, you hardly worry about the prospect of falling. Generally, the worst that happens is a small bruise, be it on your tailbone or your ego. Even if the fall is more severe than usual, broken bones tend to recover more easily when you’re younger, and you retain a greater independence during convalescence.

As you age, however, the risk associated with falling grows significantly. Not only is it more likely to occur – the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that one in three people over 65 falls every year – but those tumbles can be even more dangerous. What were once minor spills can have serious consequences when you’re older. Your bones become more brittle, and recovery times are longer.

According to the CDC, one out of every five such falls results in a serious injury. These include:

  • Broken bones, such as in the arm, hip, or wrist
  • Head injuries, especially for those on certain medications
  • Fear of future falls, which can curtail everyday activities and cause physical frailty

These events can be serious and costly. Over 700,000 patients are hospitalized yearly for injuries related to falls, and more than 2.5 million seniors need to visit an emergency room after falling. Falls are the cause of more than 95 percent of hip fractures and have a direct medical cost of $34 billion annually, adjusted for inflation.

Falls happen more as you get older.

Falls happen more often as you get older.

Conditions that lead to falls
Research cited by the CDC suggests a number of conditions that make it more likely that slips and/or falls will occur, such as:

  • Weaknesses in the legs and ankles
  • Vitamin D deficiency
  • Use of particular medications, such as sedatives and antidepressants
  • Vision issues
  • Improper footwear
  • Home hazards, such as uneven steps, clutter or slippery floors

It is important to note that these factors are not mutually exclusive. In fact, many of them can be present at once – for example, people tend to use more medications as they age and also have to manage declining vision. The more of these risks are present in your daily life, the greater your odds are of falling.

What you can do to avoid falls
Luckily, there are steps you can take to mitigate the risk of falling. Start by talking to your care provider about the unique hazards that are present in your life. Your doctor can let you know whether any of the medications you are currently taking come with side effects that might cause slips or falls, such as dizziness or sleepiness. He can also evaluate the tasks that you perform every day and let you know whether any of them are dangerous or can be modified. Additionally, Vitamin D can be prescribed, whether in the form of supplements or changed diet.

You should also get your vision checked. If your eyesight is failing, it is easy to miss little things that people can trip over. Visit the optometrist at least yearly, and get new glasses whenever you need them. If you use bifocals, consider purchasing a pair that only has your distance prescription for activities that might require it, such as walking.

Finally, you can make your home a safer environment. Avoid hoarding and clutter, as the more things you have, the more likely it is that you will trip over something. Ensure that all staircases have railings on both sides, install grab bars on either side of your toilet and in your shower, and install a non-slip mat in your bathtub. Make certain that your house has plenty of light, and keep things tidy regularly. These measures will help eliminate the risk of a fall.