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Many fall factors face seniors as they cope with medical conditions, age-related diseases

As we age we will face a variety of health changes, adversities and changing conditions that affects our daily way of life. These changes will all be factors contributing to our odds of falling. A person is more likely to fall in the comfort of their home than any other location. Close to 75% of falls happen at home.

Only 11.5% of falls happen in a residential facility such as an assisted living facility or nursing home.

Three questions everyone 65 and older should be asked:

1. Have you fallen in the past year?

2. Do you feel unsteady when standing or walking?

3. Do you worry about falling? 

If these questions can be answered with a yes, then you are at risk for falling.

A fall is defined as “an unintentional change in position coming to rest on the ground, floor or onto the next lowest surface.” The Centers of Disease Control (CDC) estimates there are 800,000 hospitalizations per year due to falls.

Most of these falls that resulted in hospitalizations were with a hip or head injury. The average hospital cost is $30,000 per visit. In 2015, falls reached $50 billion in total medical costs with Medicaid and Medicare covered 75% of these costs. More information on falls can be found at: https://www.cdc.gov/homeandrecreationalsafety/falls/adultfalls.html

About 40% of nursing home admissions were the result of a fall. These individuals may require rehabilitation before returning home, or further medical care depending on their injury.

There is misperception that once in a residential facility the patient will not fall again. Previous falls are the greatest predictor an individual will fall again. If someone has fallen several times at home, they are at greater risk for falling in other locations. Care plans and measures are taken to help a recovering patient reduce their odds of falling while residing in a health care facility.

Women, who more often suffer from osteoporosis, are more likely to fall than men. Osteoporosis is a disease that weakens bones and are more likely to break when falling. Women experience three-quarters of all hip fractures. 

Factors contributing to senior falls

Medications:
There are many factors contributing to the number of seniors who fall each year. One factor could be an item given to seniors to help with other medical conditions; medications prescribed by their doctor.

Some medications may increase the chances for someone to experience a fall. Although the side effects for medications may not include dizziness or increase the fall risk, interactions with other medications may increase the risk for falling.

Blood pressure changes:  
Significant changes in blood pressure can lead to falls. Seniors can experience changes in blood pressure when sitting or resting on a bed, then standing up. The change in blood pressure can cause lightheadedness or dizziness.

Environmental:

Close to 30% of falls could be reduced by paying greater attention to senior’s homes and other areas they frequent throughout the day. It is estimated 27% of falls are due to environmental aspects at their homes, grocery stores, sidewalks and other common places they go.  

As we age efforts should be made to help seniors keep their home free from clutter or other risk factors such as extension cords or other items people tend to have across their floor may pose as a tripping hazard. Broken, uneven steps, throw rugs and other objects also contribute to the number of falls.

Problems with vision:
Obviously, declining vision and the ability to see objects, steps and other obstacles can lead to an increase in falls. Again, areas in the home may need to be addressed from a vision perspective to keep family members safe from falling.

Acute and Chronic Medical Conditions/Diseases:

People facing a variety of medical conditions or diseases are more likely to fall as well. Parkinson’s Disease, Alzheimer’s, dementia, stroke, cancer, depression and many others can increase one’s odds of having a fall. Not only do the disease symptoms increase the chances of falling, but often medications treating the disease can cause a person to be unsteady on their feet.   

There are many reasons seniors will experience falls as they age, and as the number reason for hospitalizations, steps can be taken to reduce the odds of injury before individuals reach the risk category for falling. Taking a close look at a person’s home, where they are most likely to fall, for hazards beforehand can ensure a safer environment.  

Author: Brandon S. Totten, MAJ, is the Community Relations Manager for AMFM Nursing & Rehabilitation Centers. 

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