It is estimated that every one in four Americans aged 65+ takes a fall every year in the United States (Centers for Disease Control). This number is significant considering that falls can be detrimental to the health, safety, and financial independence of the individual. The good news is that with increased awareness surrounding this issue both individuals and their loved ones can contribute to reducing the risk of falling and the serious impacts that may follow.
Every year in September, National Fall Prevention Awareness Month takes place. The purpose of fall prevention awareness is for organizations to share education on effective strategies for increasing mobility and strength, while also offering practical solutions for safety. It is also a great opportunity for individuals to reflect on their own risk factors or those of a loved one.
Why is Fall Prevention Important?
Fall prevention is a crucial step in avoiding serious injuries and hospital stays that can be costly to the individual’s bank account and mental health. According to the CDC, among older adults, falls can be life threatening and are the most common cause of non-fatal injuries and hospital admissions (Centers for Disease Control). Additionally, falls are associated with poor health outcomes and a sense of fear that can hinder independence, activity, and strength in older individuals.
However, falls are also preventable! Research shows that understanding risk factors and implementing fall prevention strategies into a daily routine can be extremely beneficial. There are several effective fall prevention programs and toolkits available for older adults and their loved ones. Check out some of these resources which cover both individuals and community-based strategies!
- Falls Prevention Resources for Older Adults and Caregivers | ACL Administration for Community Living
- Patient & Caregiver Resources | STEADI – Older Adult Fall Prevention | CDC Injury Center
- Preventing Falls: How to Develop Community-based Fall Prevention Programs for Older Adults (cdc.gov)
Understanding Risk Factors
It is important to note that falls are not inevitable in older age, but the risk is greater. Therefore, understanding risk factors becomes increasingly important. Risk factors are defined as something that increases a person’s chance of falling. A risk factor can be biological, behavioral, or environmental and some individuals may experience multiple kinds of risk factors at once. Understanding what defines a risk can be the first crucial step in reducing falls in older adulthood. Below is a short list compiled by the Centers for Disease Control, on common types of risk factors.
Strategies for Fall Prevention
Currently the National Council on Aging offers six steps that can help prevent a fall.
- Find an exercise program that can help build strength and flexibility. Some ideas include heel lifts, toe lifts, sit to stand, wall push-ups, and leg lifts (https://agesafeamerica.com/september-national-falls-preventionmonth/).
- Speak to a health care provider to understand the risk of falling.
- Regularly review medications with a doctor/pharmacist to understand the side effects.
- Get both hearing and vision checked annually.
- Reduce tripping hazards at home.
- Enlist the support of family and friends.
During Fall Prevention Month I encourage you to learn more about fall prevention and to be an advocate for either yourself or a loved one. At Meals on Wheels of Central Maryland, we take the health and safety of our clients extremely seriously. Our employees and volunteers are trained to look for risk factors and changes in the condition of a client. Learn more about our support service and how MOWCM is More than a meal™ here: Get Meals | Meals on Wheels of Central Maryland (mealsonwheelsmd.org)
It is never too late to make steps towards improving balance and mitigating risk factors. Additionally, remember that fall prevention can reduce financial burden and injuries, increase independence, and can even save a life!
By: Nicole Troy
Ambrose AF, Paul G, Hausdorff JM. Risk factors for falls among older adults: a review of the literature. Maturitas. 2013 May;75(1):51-61. doi: 10.1016/j.maturitas.2013.02.009. Epub 2013 Mar 22. PMID: 23523272.
Bergen G, Stevens MR, Burns ER. Falls and Fall Injuries Among Adults Aged ≥65 Years — United States, 2014. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2016;65:993–998.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021, March 3). Older adult falls. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/falls/index.html.
Falls Prevention for Older Adults. The National Council on Aging. (n.d.). https://www.ncoa.org/older-adults/health/prevention/falls-prevention.