Senior Falls are Increasing: Here’s How to Protect Yourself

senior falls are increasing

Everyone is at risk of falling, no matter their age. For youngsters, falling down is actually a fairly common thing that leaves them no worse for wear most of the time – they bounce right back up and quickly forget that they even took a tumble! By the time we hit middle age, a fall is generally a rare but potentially painful surprise that we certainly remember for long after the event. And if we happen to forget, the bruises are a reminder…ouch.

But it’s when we become older that falls go from inconvenient and painful to potentially deadly. The higher fall risk of older adults is well known; the CDC reports that 36 million adults over the age of 65 suffer falls each year. About 37% of those who fall need medical attention or have to restrict their activity for at least one day while they heal from the bumps and bruises. But three million of those individuals had to visit the emergency room after their fall, and 36,000 of them died as a result of their injuries.

Since the coronavirus pandemic hit, older adults have suffered more falls than ever before. In fact, the rate of falls among elderly adults is increasing by 1.5% each year[1].

A 2021 University of Michigan survey of over 2,000 U.S. adults asked about mobility, falls, and more. Individuals ranging from age 50 to 80 reported a decline in their physical activity during the first 10 months of the pandemic. Of course, this makes sense, given that during those first months, much of the world was “shut down” and individuals were encouraged to stay away from others, which kept most of us indoors. But 27% of those surveyed said their flexibility, endurance, and muscle strength suffered, and 25% said they now had more trouble getting around. In addition, 36% of older adults had an increased risk of falling.

Of the survey respondents, 25% of them reported a fall during the early days of the pandemic, and 40% of those had suffered more than one fall. But what might be even more troubling is that fact that 28% of the adults who were injured in their falls delayed medical treatment or didn’t receive medical treatment at all[2]. As might be expected, 40% of those adults said that the pandemic played a role in their lack of care after a fall – but what about the other 60%?

The Importance of Medical Attention After a Fall

No one knows for sure why falls are increasing among older adults. As the population ages, more and more individuals are living longer. The older you are, the greater your risk of falling – and the greater your risk of injury from that fall. But there could be other factors as well, such as an increase in medications that could lead to a fall risk, as well as a lack of adequate follow-up care after the initial injury[3].

Interestingly, there was a great variation in the incidence of falls across the United States, with higher rates occurring in the central U.S., as well as pockets of higher rates of falls scattered across the southern states[4]. Though the cause is not clear, coverage of the survey by Science Daily suggests that those areas might correspond with more active populations of senior adults, and that increased activity could lead to a higher rate of falls reported.

No matter where you are in the country, an Alert1 Medical Alert device will work. We have coverage in all 50 states, as well as some parts of Canada and Puerto Rico. Coverage also includes Alaska (where there is an increased fall risk in the northern part of the state[5]) and Hawaii.

Medical alert systems with fall detection are always the best option, as they can summon help automatically if you do fall. How does that work? So while you may be a little dazed and perhaps confused or in pain by what just happened, our trained professionals are already responding, providing the emotional support you need while determining what physical support you might require.

That physical support and assistance is vitally important following a fall. If you can’t get up, not only do you lie there in pain and worry, you might also be doing even further damage to your body. Those who fall and don’t get assistance immediately can run the risk of dehydration, more serious injury, or even organ damage or failure. The older you are, the more likely it is that you will be unable to get up from the floor quickly. A study in the British Medical Journal found that of 60% of study participants aged 90 and above who suffered a fall, 80% were unable to get up after their fall, and 30% remained on the floor for an hour or more. Given this, it’s especially important to invest in medical alert devices for seniors, especially those living alone.

Even if you’re in your younger years, falls have deadly potential. Traumatic brain injuries, usually caused when your head connects with something hard on the way down, are a common injury among those who fall down in their home. Or imagine trying to get up after a hip fracture – more than 95% of hip fractures are caused by a fall. Over 300,000 elderly adults are hospitalized for falls each year[6].

In other words, a personal alarm button could save your life. Now is the time to make sure you have one. It’s wonderful peace of mind and insurance against the long-term consequences of falls. 

Protect Yourself with Fall Prevention

The University of Michigan study found that certain groups of people need more help to improve their physical condition. This includes those who are female, Black, over the age of 65, and struggling with feelings of loneliness[7]. If you are among those groups – and even if you’re not – there are things you can do right now to help mitigate your fall risk.

·         Reach out to others. Studies found that 32% of those who lack companionship are more likely to fall, as well as report less physical activity. The National Poll on Healthy Aging found that loneliness has doubled among older adults since the pandemic began. Now is the time to reach out to family and friends! The more helpful people you have around you, the more likely you are to stay healthy and strong through your golden years.

·         Look to aging in place solutions. These don’t have to be significant changes that break the bank. They can be small and subtle but pack a big safety punch. This includes things like removing throw rugs and clutter that might trip you up, making sure electrical cords are well out of the way, and choosing the right light bulbs to illuminate your space[8]. Other options, such as installing grab bars in the bathroom or switching to non-skid flooring, can also help with fall prevention.

·         Wear a medical alert pendant at all times. The importance of this cannot be understated. A medical alert can become your lifeline in the event of emergency – and though it’s great for much more than falls, fall detection devices can go a long way toward providing an extra layer of security.

·         Know your medications. Do any of your medications come with a risk of dizziness, lightheadedness, or trouble with walking? For instance, medication for high blood pressure can sometimes lead to dizziness upon standing, and some pain medication can make you move slowly and unsteadily on your feet. Understand the side effects of your medications and plan accordingly, including keeping your fall alarm handy at all times.

·         Get plenty of exercise. The stronger you are, the more likely you will be able to pick yourself up after a fall. The stronger your bones are, the less likely they will be to fracture during a fall. These are just two good reasons to exercise as often as your doctor recommends. Staying healthy can not only help prevent a fall, but can also help you recover more quickly if you do suffer an injury.

·         Get your eyes checked out. Vision issues can lead to problems with depth perception, which can make it much easier to fall. Blurry vision, vision that is blocked by cataracts, or trouble seeing in low light can all contribute to the possibility of taking a tumble. Make an appointment with your vision center as a strong show of fall prevention strategy.

·         Use mobility devices if you need them. If you have been advised to use a cane or walker, do that – and do it every time. Though it might be tempting to wander the house without these aids, remember that you were advised to use them for a reason! A walker or cane gives you the support you need if you begin to feel weak or faint, helps you with peace of mind as you move through your home, and can mean the difference between a nice, quiet day and a stressful hospital visit.

Fall prevention is vitally important, especially as you get older and suffer from more maladies. Even if you feel perfectly fine now, that can change in an instant if your feet go out from under you. Having medical alert technology on hand before you suffer a fall is a key component to staying as safe as possible. The last thing anyone wants is to suffer a fall and have no way to call for help. Alleviate that concern right now with an investment in Alert1’s affordable senior life-saving alert systems.