In recognition of June as "National Home Safety Month," Linda Hermans, MD, physician at Richmond Area Health Center, reminds us that:
Falling Is No Laughing Matter!
Comedians from long ago relied on the good old banana peel trick as an easy joke. Who could resist laughing at someone falling after he slips on the peel? When used in such a light-hearted way, a fall like that may be funny. But, falling is no joke. In fact, falls in the home are the number one cause of unintentional fatal injuries.
According to the Home Safety Council, injuries in the home are extremely common, accounting for one-third of all injuries. The home has become the second most likely place for an unintentional injury to occur, preceded by motor vehicles.
Who is at risk?
Anyone may suffer from an unintentional injury, but those at higher risk would include older adults and young children. Older adults, both men and women, experience the highest rates of unintentional home injury death overall. An estimated 30-40% of community dwelling adults over the age of 65 fall each year and rates are even higher in nursing homes and hospitals.
What can you do?
Falls, of course, may result in serious injury and often lead to a loss of independence. Fear of falling can be similarly debilitating, leading to self-driven isolation and restriction of activities which can cause depression and diminished quality of life. You can however, take action and improve your chances of avoiding fall-related injuries.
The following interventions have proven to be effective in decreasing fall-related injuries among older adults:
- Review ALL medications with your provider and discuss stopping those that are no longer necessary or offering continued benefit
- Be aware of possible medication interactions, especially those that may lead to dizziness or balance problems
- Talk to your provider about participating in a regular exercise program which can improve muscle strength, endurance, and balance
Risk Factors for Older Adults
- Lower body weakness
- Problems with balance or walking
- Taking multiple medications
- Cognitive impairment
- Vision problems
- History of stroke
- Install grab bars in bath or showers
- Use non-slip mats in tubs or showers
- Use nightlights
- Keep stairs clear
- Install lights around stairs and halls
- Use sturdy step stools with hand rails
- Keep floors clean
- Paint bottom step white for easy viewing
- Wear footwear with traction
- Post emergency numbers near the phone
- The Home Safety Council
- National Health Observances