While some falls may seem harmless, it only takes one to cause serious injury. An estimated 30 to 50 percent of seniors who fall will experience a minor injury like bruising, lacerations, and abrasions. 20 percent, however, will experience more serious injuries that can negatively impact mobility, cognitive functioning, and overall health.
A 2018 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention even found that the number of deaths from falls among adults 65 and older increased over 30 percent between 2006 and 2016.
Want to get serious about preventing falls in your home or the home of a senior you help care for? Don’t miss this essential injury guide to falling with helpful prevention tips:
Top Senior Injuries Caused by Falling
Fractures – fractures are considered a major complication of a fall as they can encompass one or more breaks in the bone(s). Common points of location for fall-based fractures include the hips, wrists, arms, and ankles.
Depending on the type and severity of a fracture, recovery and rehabilitation can take months. Hip and lower leg fractures can be particularly trying as they inhibit mobility and require extensive physical therapy. Bone breaks that lead to reduced physical activity can also lead to less exercise and other poor lifestyle behaviors that contribute to conditions like obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and hypertension.
Head injuries – a simple bump on the head from a fall may not be that simple after all, especially if you or your loved one are a senior who takes blood thinners. Concussions can occur when the brain literally gets ‘rattled’ inside the skull and while serious, they may not always lead to loss of consciousness. Confusion, nausea, headache, memory loss, sleepiness, lack of coordination, and vomiting may occur as the result of a concussion.
Other head injuries include hematomas or bleeding, clotting, and swelling under the skull and around the brain, as well as hemorrhages, contusions, and skull fractures. Head injuries often require hospitalization, long-term treatment plans, and in severe cases, surgical intervention.
Sprains – when you reach your arms out in front of you to brace yourself during a fall, the ligaments that help hold important joints together, like your wrist, can become over overstretched or even torn. The same thing can happen when your ankle awkwardly rolls or twists during a fall. This type of injury is known as a sprain and can cause pain, swelling, bruising, tenderness, stiffness, and even temporary deformity.
Recovering from a sprain may take weeks to months and can limit your ability to complete daily tasks. Post-recovery, seniors may be required to wear supportive devices like wraps, braces, and splints during future activity too to prevent re-injury – see more here: https://www.vivehealth.com/collections/supports
Preventing Falls and Injury
The first important step in preventing falls is recognizing and addressing common risk factors. These include:
- Use of medications that affect balance, blood pressure, tiredness, or dizziness
- Lower body weakness and/or trouble walking or staying balanced
- Poor footwear
- Vitamin D deficiency
- Foot pain
- Vision problems
- Cluttered or hazardous living environment, i.e. broken steps, loose cords, throw rugs, small pets, water on the floor, etc.
It’s also important to note the most common rooms in the home in which falls occur – the bathroom, bedroom, and kitchen. Small but effective upgrades to these rooms may include installing grab bars in the shower, adding rails to the bed, or moving commonly used dishes to easier-to-reach cabinets in the kitchen.
Did you know too that a fear of falling can actually put you at a higher risk for falling? Oftentimes seniors who are afraid of experiencing a fall will limit their physical activity and avoid getting out of the house. Over time this can weaken their strength, coordination, balance, and emotional wellness, all of which may contribute to a fall.
What To Do If You Fall
The National Institutes of Aging emphasize important tips for what to do in the event you do experience a fall:
- Stay calm and practice deep breathing to relax
- Before you attempt to move, remain still and decide whether or not you are hurt
- If getting up on your own is safe, roll over and rest a few seconds to let your blood pressure normalize
- Crawl on your hands and knees to the nearest piece of sturdy furniture, preferably a chair
- Put both hands on the chair and raise up on your knees, bringing one leg forward until your foot is flat on the ground
- Push yourself up to stand as well as possible and then sit in the nearest chair and call for help
You may find it helpful to carry a mobile phone or medical alert device with you around the home to make it easier to call for help during a fall. Prompt medical attention may be required to address an injury.