Preventing Falls May Save a Life


Everybody takes a spill now and then, whether tripping on a carpet or slipping on an icy sidewalk, there are limitless ways we can fall. Stumbling now and then is a part of life, but for people with physical disabilities or older adults, tripping and falling could result in serious physical injury and even death. It is no laughing matter.

The gravity of this situation was highlighted in a recent article on National Public Radio. As noted in the piece, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have released an overview noting that falls are the leading cause of both fatal and non-fatal injuries for people over 65.

The numbers get worse: in 2012, there were over 2 million people in this age group who were treated in an emergency room for fall-related injuries, and almost three-quarters of a million were hospitalized. This resulted in nearly $30 billion dollars in medical costs. What may be worse is that it is estimated that one out of every three people over 65 has a fall, and yet less than half refuse to mention this to their health care provider. Naturally, this can result in a worsening injury, chronic pain, and perhaps death.

As the NPR article revealed, the days after a fall often exacerbate the problem. Often, lengthy hospital stays after a fall result in bedsores and pneumonia. Hip fractures are a common result of a fall, and the CDC observes that 1 in 5 hip fracture patients will die within a year of their injury.

Women are at the greatest risk: three-quarters of all hip fractures are sustained by women, increased by the presence of osteoporosis.

But helping people avoid falls is not a roll of the dice—proper training, exercise, and even diet can help people avoid falls, or at the very least diminish the injury that results from a fall. Helping the people you work with exercise and strengthen their legs, reminding them to make certain their eye exams are up-to-date, identifying and removing potential tripping hazards, and paying attention to which medications may make a person drowsy are just some of the effective methods of helping to avoid a serious fall.

The DirectCourse/College of Personal Assistance and Caregiving curriculum has a course designed to help make homes safer for people with disabilities and older adults. Safety at Work: Information for Home Care Providers helps teach caregivers the best methods to make homes and communities safe. And Lesson 1: Safety in the Home has specific instructions on fall prevention, including much of the advice listed above. Please visit the College of Personal Assistance and Caregiving site for more information on this important topic.


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