September marks the start of fall, so seems appropriate that it’s also a time to focus on falls, as in slips and falls. In the elderly population, slip-and-fall accidents have reached epidemic proportions, resulting in more than 3 million visits to emergency departments each year. Here to talk about prevention efforts is Meaghan Crawley, the trauma and injury prevention coordinator at Spectrum Health’s Butterworth Hospital.
One of the most important things to think about is that falling is NOT a normal part of aging! Just because we age, that does not mean it is inevitable that we will fall. However, there are certain physical changes that happen a person ages. Joints lose their flexibility and strength, vision and hearing change, and as someone ages, they tend to have more medical conditions that may affect their balance. All of these factors increase someone’s risk.
Aside from abrasions and lacerations. More serious injuries include intracranial injuries such as brain injuries and fractures. The most common fractures we see in the ED in our elderly population are hip, femur, pelvis and spine.
Nationally, 25% of adults over the age of 65 report falling every year, leading to 3 million ED visits in one year. That comes down to more than 8,000 visits each day, just for falls. Falls are the #1 reason for trauma visits nationally.
Spectrum Health occasionally hold fall prevention classes to discuss correct foot wear, importance of vision checks, and understanding your medications, Along with the value of home inspections to make sure your space is safe and free of tripping hazards.
Know the risk factors and take steps to reduce your risk. Exercise and daily activity is one of the easiest ways to reduce your risk. This doesn’t mean you have to go out and do an hour-long aerobics class, this means to get up and moving in ways that are safe and comfortable for you. Other tips are to make sure you are wearing good, sturdy, non-slip foot wear at all times, remove clutter from your home and ensure where you are walking is free from trip hazards. Also, ask your doctor or pharmacist to review your medications at least once a year. It is important that all prescription and nonprescription medications are reviewed to make sure they aren’t throwing off your balance. For other tips please visit National Council on Aging website, www.NCOA.org