Older Adult Falls Prevention
Unintentional falls are the leading cause of injury death among Florida residents ages 65 years and older and the fourth leading cause of injury death overall. Additionally, falls are the leading cause of non-fatal injury related hospital admissions in Florida.
In 2012, 2,475 residents were fatally injured in a fall; there were an additional 62,541 residents hospitalized for non-fatal injuries. Nearly three-quarters of these injuries were among residents ages 65 years and older.
For every older adult fall prevented, the following costs can be saved; the median admission charge for non-fatal fall injury hospitalizations was $46,067; total charges excessed $3.64 billion. The median length of stay was four days.
In addition to deaths and injuries, as well as the costs associated with them, falls can have many negative consequences for older adults, including:
- Fear of falling again
- Forced relocation from the home
- Loss of independence
- Stress in the family
By reducing their chance of a fall, older adults can stay independent and have an increased quality of life.
Preventing Falls Among Older Adults
There are many reasons why an older adult might fall, including a variety of biological, behavioral, and environmental factors. These risk factors include:
- A previous fall
- Chronic health conditions (e.g., arthritis, stroke)
- Conditions in the home (e.g., slippery floors, loose rugs, cords on the floor, poor lighting)
- Fear of falling
- Medicines (including interaction effects)
- Mobility problems (e.g., muscle weakness, balance)
- Poor nutrition (leading to weakness, dizziness, fainting)
- Poor vision or hearing
Older adults who have one or more of these conditions may have a higher risk of falling. The following practices are recommended for older adults to reduce their chances of falling and help them stay independent:
- Exercising regularly (especially leg strengthening and improving balance)
- Having an eye doctor check their vision at least once a year
- Making their home environment safer
- Reviewing their medicines with a doctor or pharmacist
There are evidence based interventions for older adults, including programs designed specifically to prevent falls. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has resources available for providers interested in these interventions, including a compendium of evidence based fall interventions and a guide on developing community based falls prevention programs. The National Council on Aging (NCOA) also has information about evidence based programs. A few of these interventions include:
- Tai Chi
- Stepping On
See the aforementioned resources for more of these programs. Older adults interested in participating in a community based program should contact their local Aging and Disability Resource Center to find out what is available in their area.