Why Are Falls So Dangerous for the Elderly?
The evidence is clear: Falls can be incredibly dangerous for seniors. However, it’s not just the injuries from a tumble that can be harmful. Understanding the larger issues can help you understand the steps that you can take to limit your own risks so that you can worry less about falls.
The Full Circle of Fall Dangers
A fall can happen quickly. However, the dangers associated with a fall can begin before and linger long after an actual event, according to the Merck Manual. When it comes to a fall, there a several dangerous points for a senior:
- The fall. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, some 3 million older people are treated in emergency departments each year for fall injuries. These injuries can include head injuries, which can be serious, especially if the senior is on blood-thinning medication. Broken bones are also common. Strained muscles, deep cuts, and severe bruising can also occur.
- The fall’s immediate aftermath. The period immediately following a fall can also be dangerous if the senior isn’t able to get up or summon help right away. Even if they weren’t badly hurt by the fall, spending an extended time laying on the floor while they wait for assistance causes its own problems, including dehydration, anxiety, pressure sores, and pneumonia. It can also trigger a dangerous drop in body temperature and rhabdomyolysis, a process where muscle breaks down and triggers kidney damage.
- The fall’s long-term aftermath. Injuries from a fall can have a long-term effect on a person’s mobility. A broken hip or traumatic brain injury will often leave a senior less stable, which can put them at higher risk of taking another fall.
- The fear effect. Why are falls so dangerous for the elderly? Some seniors who ask that question develop a fear of falling. In an attempt to protect themselves, they begin self-limiting their activities. Unfortunately, this can sometimes lead them to be less active, which might have the opposite effect. Stiffer joints and weaker muscles may decrease their ability to catch themselves if they lose their balance, leaving them more vulnerable to a fall.
Tips to Prevent Falls
The prospect of falling is scary. Fortunately, there are numerous things that seniors can do to reduce their risk of taking a fall:
- Talk to your doctor. Your doctor is an invaluable ally. If you’ve fallen, be honest about it. Working together to identify any treatable reasons can reduce fall risk and help you stay healthy and safe.
- Exercise. Exercises can help improve your balance, strength, and stability, reducing your risk of falls and improving your overall well-being.
- Get your vision checked. Seeing clearly can help you avoid obstacles and trip hazards.
- Wear proper footwear. Choose nonslip shoes that fit properly. Ideally, they’ll have flat heels and good ankle support.
- Use an assistive device. If you’re supposed to be using a cane, walker, or rolling walker to assist you, do so consistently. Meet with a physical therapist to learn how to use the device properly if you aren’t sure how to use it effectively.
- Create a comfortable environment. Remove tripping hazards like throw loose rugs and items that infringe on walkways. Make sure that lighting is adequate so that you can see where you’re going clearly. Install safety features like grab bars and handrails.
Many seniors who are concerned about the dangers of falling settle on a solution that lets them balance independence with safety: a senior living community.