Accidental Falls Are Leading Cause of Injury and Death in Older Americans

Updated on October 3, 2019

7 Step Fall Challenge Helps Decrease Risks

About a third of people who are 65 years of age and older will be involved in an accidental fall this year that diminishes their quality of life.  That number increases the older a person gets.

“Falls are complex and happen for a variety of reasons,” said Rebecca Parker, MD, FACEP, president of the American College of Emergency Physicians.  “But there are common steps that can be taken right now to greatly decrease your risk of falling for the first time, including those who have fallen multiple times.”

Emergency physicians have created a video designed to give people who have fallen in the past — especially the more vulnerable elderly population — easy steps to avoid future falls.  It’s called the “7 Step Fall Challenge.”  Emergency physicians are confident that by following these steps, you will greatly decrease your risk of falling, especially repeat falling.
Step 1: Strength and Balance

Focus on improving strength and balance by exercising regularly.  Several options include Tai Chi, Yoga and other exercises that improve flexibility and endurance.

Step 2: Home Safety

Over half of falls occur in homes. Remove trip hazards, like boxes and furniture, from heavy traffic areas.  Create a wide pathway between rooms.

Make sure loose carpets and rugs are secure and that cords are taped down or removed.   Never stand on chairs or stools to reach for items. Install safety rails in bathrooms and night lights in hallways, bedrooms and bathrooms.

Step 3: Medication

Many medications can make you feel lightheaded, dizzy or sleepy, which can increase your risk of falling.  If you have these side effects from certain medications, work with your doctor or pharmacist to find other options that might be available.

Step 4: Vision

As we age, our vision changes.  It may become more difficult to see things.  Get your eyes checked every year.

Step 5: Dehydration

Dehydration can lead to dizziness and confusion.  Often, we don’t drink as much water as we need.  Unless you are told otherwise by a doctor, try to drink 6-8 glasses of water a day.

Step 6: Feet and Footwear

Supportive footwear is extremely important for preventing falls.  Poor-fitting shoes, clogs, flip-flops and heels will increase your risk of falling.

Always wear supportive and comfortable shoes while walking.  Talk to your doctor about seeing a podiatrist, or foot doctor, especially if you have decreased feeling in your feet from diabetes or other medical conditions.

Step 7: What to Do If You Fall

If you start to fall, try to relax your body to reduce the impact.  Tuck your chin to protect your head and roll as you land to spread out the force of the fall.  Stay calm and do not try to get up too quickly.

Always keep a mobile or cordless phone with emergency numbers within easy reach.  If you’ve fallen before, talk to your doctor about getting a fall alert system.  This is a bracelet or necklace that will alert local emergency medical services, or EMS, if you fall.

Once a person has fallen once, his or her risk of falling again is twice as high.  For more information, please watch this video and share it with those you believe are at greatest risk of falling.

ACEP is the national medical specialty society representing emergency medicine. ACEP is committed to advancing emergency care through continuing education, research and public education. Headquartered in Dallas, Texas, ACEP has 53 chapters representing each state, as well as Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. A Government Services Chapter represents emergency physicians employed by military branches and other government agencies.

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