Oct 08, 2018 12:00 AM

Falls are a serious problem for the elderly. According to the Centers for Disease Control more than one out of every four people over the age of 65 suffers a fall each year. University of Utah Health’s Trauma Program treats hundreds of falls involving elderly patients each year -- with nearly half of those patients between the ages of 65-84.

Those falls can result in numerous orthopedic injuries, as well as the potential for skin damage and even a more serious head injury. They also increase the likelihood that the person will fall again. Yet, despite the serious implications of falling, most patients do not tell their doctors when it happens.

This begs the question: What can be done to prevent someone from sustaining a fall while at their home?  The National Council on Aging (NCOA) has some tips that could help you from sustaining a fall in your residence:

  • Find a good balance and exercise program
  • Talk to your health care provider
  • Regularly review your medications with your doctor or pharmacist
  • Get your vision and hearing checked annually and update your eyeglasses
  • Keep your home safe
  • Talk to your family members

When you are looking for an exercise program, find one that will build balance, strength, and flexibility. In Utah, programs such as “Stepping On” and “Tai Chi for Arthritis” are available all across the state. Talking to your doctor about your current health and having them perform a fall assessment could also help prevent a fall.

While visiting with your doctor, ask them to review your medications for unwanted side effects that may cause you to fall. In addition to speaking with your primary care physician, talk to your eye doctor annually about your vision. Update your eye glasses prescription at a minimum of every year. Look for tripping hazards such as rugs or loose carpet, and have them removed. Have family members help update your lighting in poorly lit areas, and install grab bars near stairs. Finally, have your family help as much as possible. Falls can impact families, so ask them for support to make your life falls free.

For additional resources, please contact your primary care provider and tell them you are worried about falling. You can also contact the Faint and Falls Clinic at University of Utah Health, our Trauma Program (www.healthcare.utah.edu/trauma), or the National Council on Aging (www.ncoa.org). Local senior centers have great resources (and workout classes also!) that you could use to help keep yourself free from falls.

prevention geriatrics

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