2023 National Falls Prevention Awareness Week: Preventing Older Adult Falls

Key Takeaways:

  • National Falls Prevention Awareness Week was created to draw attention to the dangers of falling and help prevent fall injuries.
  • It takes place during fall each year, and will be held September 18-22, 2023.
  • Seniors experience millions of fall injuries every year, some leading to death.
  • There are many ways to help older adults avoid and prevent falling.
  • All fall injuries should be reported to a physician right away.
  • Fall injuries that take place in a nursing home may be a sign of neglect.

As people age they begin to face new and unique challenges in their everyday lives, one of which is an ever-increasing risk of falling and injuring themselves.

In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are around 36 million falls in the United States each year involving older people and around 32,000 fall-related injury deaths. Many falls and related injuries are preventable.

Because fall injuries have the potential to be very serious and result in many emergency department visits each year, National Falls Prevention Awareness Week was created to bring attention to this serious public health issue.

What Is National Falls Prevention Awareness Week?

National Falls Prevention Awareness Week happens annually during the first week of fall.

The event is meant to bring together seniors, their family members, caregivers, and healthcare providers to bring awareness to the danger of falling and promote education on how to prevent it.

Falls Prevention Awareness Week is important for educating seniors and their loved ones on how to prevent and reduce the risk of falls, while also helping them reduce any fears they may have of falling and improve their overall quality of life.

The event is organized by the National Council on Aging and will take place this year from September 18, 2023 through September 22, 2023.

Scope of Fall Injuries in Older Adults

Falling is a leading cause of injury and death in older adults, costing over $50 billion annually to Americans in medical costs.

Statistics related to fall injuries in older adults include:

  • Women fall more often than men.
  • More than one in four older adults over 65 falls every year.
  • Less than half of seniors who fall tell their physicians about it.
  • One out of every five falls results in a serious injury.
  • More than 95% of hip fractures are the result of a fall.
  • The most common cause for traumatic brain injury is falling.

Risk Factors for Older Adult Falls

While people can fall and injure themselves at any age, older adults are at an increased risk for this type of accident — a risk that only increases with age.

Risk factors for older adult falls include:

  • Poor eyesight, hearing, and/or reflexes
  • Medical conditions or health problems that can make a person lose their balance or feel dizzy
  • Medications that can make a person lose their balance or feel dizzy
  • Having to go to the bathroom frequently, especially at night
  • Wearing unsafe footwear
  • Hazards around the home or other environments that they frequent
  • Sarcopenia, which is a decline in a person’s overall muscle mass, strength, and function as they age
  • A history of falls

The Importance of Preventing Older Adult Falls

Injury prevention for falls is essential for older adults, as a serious fall can not only be life-threatening, but leave a person with severe physical and emotional injuries.

Health Effects from Fall Injuries

Fall injuries can range from minor to extremely serious injuries and even result in death in the most severe of cases.

Health effects from fall injuries include:

  • Spinal cord and back injuries
  • Head injuries and traumatic brain injuries (TBI)
  • Broken bones
  • Hip fractures
  • Sprains, bruises, or cuts
  • Paralysis
  • Worsening of pre-existing health conditions
  • Death

PTSD Caused by Past Falls

A fall can be an extremely traumatic event, leaving a person with serious and sometimes permanent injuries and oftentimes with mental and emotional scars as well.

In some instances, a person may develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after a fall which can in turn become an intense and even debilitating fear of falling again.

This is dangerous, because it can lead to seniors being overly cautious and thus less active, which can make them even weaker and actually increase their chances of falling again.

10 Tips to Prevent Falls in Seniors

Here are some tips that you or your loved one can follow to prevent fall-related injuries.

1. Learn About Your Fall Risk

Having awareness of your fall risk means that you can look out for any warning signs or symptoms and seek clinical interventions when needed.

This also allows you to take precautionary measures if your doctor determines you have a higher fall risk through activities like visiting a physical therapist.

2. Avoid Medications That Cause Drowsiness

Whenever possible, avoid medications that are known to cause drowsiness and fatigue, or that have side effects like dizziness or loss of balance.

However, never start or stop taking a medication without speaking to your prescribing physician, and always let them know about any concerns or questions that you have.

Common medications that seniors take that may cause drowsiness include opioids, benzodiazepines, and some antidepressants.

3. Improve Your Muscle Strength

To combat the natural effects of sarcopenia, older adults can work on building and regaining some of the muscle strength they have lost.

This can be done through light physical activity and exercise, as well as getting more vitamin D through supplements and sunlight.

Yoga, pilates, and tai chi are great examples of activities for seniors that can help them work on building both strength and balance.

4. Get Regular Vision and Hearing Checkups

Since vision and hearing impairment are major risk factors for falls in seniors, it can be a great idea to have your vision and hearing checked regularly if you are an older adult.

This way, you can address any issues before they become major problems and equip yourself with any necessary visual or hearing aids.

5. Fall-Proof Your Home

Another good way to prevent falls is by ensuring in advance that your home is as fall-proof as possible.

It won’t always be possible to prevent every fall, but many falls can be prevented through proper precautions.

Ways to fall-proof your home include:

  • Keep floors, and especially walkways, clear and free of clutter
  • Add grab bars around toilets and showers
  • Install handrails on all staircases
  • Have nightlights around your home for nighttime bathroom trips
  • Have good lighting in all areas, and especially stairwells
  • Make sure that all rugs are secured and corners are tapped down to prevent tripping
  • Have an emergency alarm or alert system in place for help in case of falls

6. Get Adequate Sleep

It is recommended that adults over the age of 65 get between seven and eight hours of sleep every night in order to feel rested.

With too little sleep, seniors may suffer from sleep deprivation and excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS). On the other hand, with too much sleep, they may be groggy and lose their balance as a result.

7. Limit Alcohol Intake

Alcohol and drugs can cause further impairment in seniors and older adults who are already at risk, and should only be used in moderation and under supervision.

Not only can alcohol impair a senior’s vision and movement, but it can also make them drowsy and potentially interact with medications that they are taking as well.

8. Change Positions Slowly

When changing positions or moving in or out of a sitting or laying-down position, it is especially important to be mindful and cautious.

Grab bars can help, and are great in locations where older adults need to change positions frequently like around toilets and bathtubs.

9. Watch for Slippery or Icy Surfaces

Always keep an eye out for slippery or icy surfaces, especially those that are related to weather conditions or in areas that have been recently cleaned and may still be wet.

This is not always possible to do, as ice can be hard to see on roads and sidewalks, so it can also be helpful to be aware of weather conditions just in case.

10. Wear Non-Slip Shoes

Investing in a good pair of comfortable, non-slip shoes is also a good idea, especially for seniors who live in areas that are prone to icy conditions.

Non-slip shoes are typically made of rubber and leather, and are slip-resistant both in their design and their use of these materials.

What to Do if a Senior Falls

Even with important prevention strategies in place, senior falls still happen and can be incredibly terrifying.

Whether it is you who has fallen or you have witnessed the fall of a loved one, the most important thing to remember is to try to stay calm.

After a fall, you should immediately contact your local emergency department to have yourself or your loved one assessed, even if they seem okay immediately after the fall.

While waiting on emergency services to arrive, try to evaluate the extent of the injuries before attempting to move your loved one. Moving them too soon or without extreme care can result in additional or worsening injuries.

As a preventative measure, seniors should equip themselves with a fall alert necklace, bracelet, or smartwatch. These alert systems allow seniors to call for emergency help at the push of a button, and in some cases can even automatically detect if a senior has fallen.

Can a Fall in a Nursing Home Be Considered Neglect?

Yes, a fall in a nursing home can be considered neglect if it can be tied to any reason related to negligence on the part of a health care provider or nursing home staff.

Examples of this would be if a resident fell when they should have been supervised but weren’t or if they fell due to an uncleaned spill. Essentially, any fall injury that was caused by something preventable could be nursing home neglect.

In these cases, the senior who is injured from the fall may be eligible for a nursing home neglect lawsuit to collect financial compensation for their injuries.

Find Top Care for a Senior Loved One After a Fall Injury

If you are looking to connect with a better care option for your senior loved one after experiencing a fall caused by neglect, we can help you in your search for a new senior care facility.

We offer a comprehensive database of senior care communities around the United States, and can answer any and all questions that you have about the numerous options available.

There is no better time than National Falls Prevention Week to take action and ensure that you or your loved one is safe from potential falls — contact us today to get started.

Written by: Aging with Care Editorial Staff

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