Many Falls Are Preventable

Jennifer Cipriano

September is National Falls Prevention Month.

Every 20 minutes, an older adult dies from a fall in the United States and many more are injured. Even if you yourself have not fallen, chances are you likely know someone who has sustained a fall or is at risk for falling.

The hard facts:

  • More than 1 out of 4 people fall each year
  • Less than half tell their healthcare provider
  • Falling once doubles your chances of falling again
  • 1 out of 5 people who fall sustain a serious injury such as a head injury or broken bones
  • 3 million older adults are treated in emergency departments for fall related injuries
  • Over 800,000 people are hospitalized each year because of a fall related injury
  • Over 95% of hip fractures are caused by falling, usually by falling sideways
  • Falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries
  • In 2015, the medical cost for falls totaled over $50 billion and Medicare and Medicaid paid approximately 75% of these costs

Factors that Increase Risk:

  • Lower body weakness
  • Vitamin D deficiency
  • Difficulties with balance or walking
  • Use of medication that can affect balance
  • Vision problems
  • Foot pain
  • Poor footwear
  • Home hazards such as uneven steps, clutter that can be tripped over, the use of throw rugs

Although this information can be discouraging, the good news is that most risk factors are modifiable and most falls can be prevented!

Talk to Your Healthcare Provider

  • Evaluate risks
  • Review medications, including over the counter medications
  • Discuss vitamin D supplements
  • Set up an appointment to have your eyes checked

Do balance and strength exercises, such as the following:

  • Attend evidence-based classes such as Tai Chi
  • Do Chair Rise Exercises
  • Exercises that improve balance and make your legs stronger will lower your chance of falling

Also, strive to make your home or your parents’ home safe:

  • Remove clutter
  • Improve lighting
  • Have handrails installed on stairs
  • Have grab bars installed in and next to the tub and next to the toilet
  • Secure carpets such as throw rugs with doubled-sided tape or slip-resistant backing
  • Wear well-fitting shoes both inside and outside the house
  • Utilize a Home Fall Prevention Checklist

By making simple changes and proactively practicing falls prevention, we can help reduce the number of deaths and injuries that occur each day related to falls.

References: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,
National Council on Aging

About the Author

Jennifer Cipriano, BSN, RN, CMSRN, is the Trauma Continuum of Care Coordinator for Lakeland Regional Health and is a Certified Child Passenger Safety Technician.