Provider News Summer 2016 - Falling

Protect older patients from falling

Annually in the United States, 2.5 million persons aged 65 and older are treated in emergency departments for injuries from falls, resulting in $34 billion in direct medical costs. Health care providers can help their patients learn to protect themselves from the risks of falling.

Among older adults, falls are the number-one cause of fractures, hospital admissions for trauma, loss of independence, and injury deaths. Fall-related fractures are typically in the hip, pelvis, spine, arm, hand or ankle. Hip fractures are a leading cause of loss of independence.

As people age, their fear of falling may increase, leading them to avoid activities like walking, shopping or taking part in social activities; this can be detrimental to mental and physical health. Consider referring patients to a physical therapist if your patient needs help improving their balance or building confidence.

Advise patients to tell you if they fall, even if they are not hurt. Falls can signal a new medical problem, such as diabetes, blood pressure issues or medication problems. New eyeglasses or a walking aid may also be needed.

Also, encourage your patients to maintain an appropriate exercise routine to improve balance and keep muscles strong. Check out the Health and Human Services Agency's Senior Fitness page.

Older adults should also take steps to make their homes safer by removing loose rugs, adding handrails to stairs and hallways, and ensuring lighting is adequate.