6 Surprising Reasons for Senior Falls

elderly fall

The facts about falls among the elderly can be quite sobering. The CDC reports that more than one out of four people over the age of 65 suffer at least one fall each year. But did you know that falling down once doubles your chances of falling down again?

Out of those elderly adults who do fall, about 20% of them suffer a serious injury, such as a broken bone or head trauma. That leads to over 800,000 people being hospitalized as the result of a fall each year. And the problem is actually growing. The CDC estimates that by 2030, there will be seven deaths from falls every hour[1].

While most of us would readily say that certain things are a clear fall hazard, like an electrical cord snaking across the living room or slick flooring in the hallway, some issues aren’t so clear. These “hidden” reasons for falls among the elderly must be addressed to help ensure that seniors  stay as healthy and safe as possible. Here are a few of them.

1.       Vision Problems Lead to Falls at Any Age

As we age, we are prone to vision problems. While about 75% of all adults need corrective lenses, that number rises to 92% for those over the age of 65, according to JAMA Ophthalmology[2].

Seniors who are below the age of 65 can also suffer from serious falls due to vision problems. In fact, the risk of falls begins to increase significantly after the age of 40[3].

What to do about it: Get your vision checked early and often. A good rule of thumb is to see the eye doctor every 1-2 years until the age of 55, after which you should see the doctor every year[4]. The use of medical alert technology is an excellent option for all those who have vision problems.

2.       Beware of Falls After a Car Accident

As we get older, vision loss is not the only problem we face – balance problems and a lack of flexibility also come into play. These problems can make driving more dangerous for an elderly person. Having a car accident is bad enough, but the aftermath – even if you are uninjured – can be just as rough. The emotional trauma experienced in a car accident can make you wary of having another accident, and it can also make you wary of falling or otherwise getting physically injured. That concern can make you move in a different way than you usually do or make you more hesitant when you step, which can then lead to falls.

And interestingly enough, those with a history of falls have a 40% higher risk of car accidents, according to the AAA Foundation. This could stem from injuries, such as the reduced function that comes from a healing joint, or from issues of confidence behind the wheel.

What to do about it: Talk to your doctor about balance problems, and get regular exercise to stay strong and flexible. If you do suffer an accident, consider taking a driving course to freshen up your skills. And remember, an on-the-go medical alert system with GPS from Alert1 can ensure someone comes to your aid wherever and whenever you need it with just the simple press of a button.

3.       Spending Time in the Hospital Increases Fall Risk

A study from the University of Michigan found that the risk of falls is elevated after seniors are discharged from the hospital.

What to do about it: Take fall prevention measures well before you reach a point of falling down. This means adapting your home with aging in place solutions before you actually need them. It’s also a good idea to choose a medical alert pendant with fall detection to access assistance immediately if you do suffer a fall.

4.       Even Little Problems with Your Feet are a Big Deal

Some conditions that affect the feet, such as diabetic neuropathy, can be obvious culprits in falling down. But there are other conditions that can lead to numbness or pain in the feet, such as Raynaud’s disease or some forms of arthritis. The result can be stepping gingerly – not confidently – and that alone is enough to lead to a fall. Harvard Health Publishing reports that those who suffer from pain in their feet or have a “flat feet” posture are more likely to fall.

What to do about it: Get checked out by a podiatrist. Work on treating underlying medical conditions that can lead to problems with your feet. And though there might not be anything you can do about “flat feet,” you can use special shoes to help correct your foot posture and keep you steadier. Using medical alerts is a good idea for anyone who has foot problems.

5.       Insomnia Can Lead to Serious Falls

Insomnia is being unable to get to sleep or stay asleep. You can wake up feeling as though you didn’t sleep at all. And the problem with that is obvious – the more tired you are, the more likely you are to stumble and fall. But there can also be serious problems that result from the medication you might take to help you sleep. For example, benzodiazepines, a front-line pharmaceutical treatment for sleep issues, have been proven to lead to a higher risk of falls[5].

But even the medications that appear to be safer can pose a risk. Recent research from The Canadian Journal of Hospital Pharmacy has found that those who are using melatonin are at a higher risk of serious fracture if they do fall.

What to do about it: If you aren’t getting good sleep, talk to your doctor about your options. Good sleep hygiene can help you get into a routine that might ease insomnia. Having an emergency response system handy if you get up in the middle of the night can bring the peace of mind you need.

6.       Don’t Let Your Guard Down During the Summer

It makes sense to think that autumn and winter are the most common times for falls. There is often ice and snow, which can be obvious contributors to fall risk. But a study by the American Society of Anesthesiologists found that the majority of falls actually occur during the summer months.

You might be thinking that it makes sense too, considering that the summer months draw people outdoors and there is usually an uptick in physical activity. But the study goes on to report that the vast majority of falls – about 76% of them – happen indoors[6]. Tripping over throw rugs or falling out of bed appeared to be the most common culprits.

What to do about it: Remember that falls can happen anytime. Stay safer by keeping the walkways in your home clear, and make a point of getting rid of throw rugs. Consider getting a medical alert wireless system to wear at all times, even at night while you are in bed. If you do happen to suffer a fall in the wee hours of the morning, help is just a button push away.

How Can You Prevent Falls?

Start right now by making fall prevention a number-one priority. Though you are likely well aware of a fall risk when you are in an obviously treacherous situation, such as walking down a set of icy steps or moving carefully on uneven ground, it’s the less dangerous situations that often result in falls. After all, most people don’t expect to get a hip fracture in the middle of the night by falling as they try to get up out of bed! No one expects to trip and fall until they actually do.

Look around your home at the potential trip hazards. Some of these are obvious, such as throw rugs, slick flooring that doesn’t provide much traction, or even a stack of books in the corner that could easily tumble down into your path. Clearing your home of clutter, moving electrical cords out of walkways, and wearing house slippers with textured soles can help.

Make sure to look for things you might not expect. For example, you might love to wrap up in a blanket in your favorite chair. But when you get up from that chair, consider that your feet might get wrapped up in that blanket and you might fall down. Remedy this by ensuring that you move the blanket away entirely before you stand up.

Though a medical alert wireless system doesn’t actually prevent falls, it can definitely prevent the more dire consequences that can occur if you do fall. Imagine falling out of bed in the middle of the night and suffering severe injury that makes it hard to move much at all. You might stay on the floor for hours while you wait for the morning light – and what if you can’t get to the phone to reach anyone, even then? A personal alarm button at your fingertips alleviates that problem immediately. And the sooner you get help, the better your health will be if you do suffer a fall.

Alert1 wishes you health and safety!