Falls Among Older Adults
Falls are not a normal part of aging. Most falls are preventable if we can teach older adults what hazards to remove in their homes and help them increase their strength and balance.
September 22, 2016
Every day, an average of eight Utahns age 65 and older will be hospitalized for injuries due to a fall. Falls are the leading cause of injury-related death among older adults in Utah. In 2012, there were 3,183 fall-related hospitalizations among older Utahns, costing more than $95 million in hospital charges (1). About 50 percent of the traumatic brain injuries in Utah each year are due to falls, and the majority of these injuries occur to adults ages 65 and older. Falls can also cause hip fractures and increase the risk of early death (2).
Many people who fall, even if they are not injured, will develop a fear of falling. This fear cause them to limit their daily activities which can lead to decreased mobility, loss of physical fitness and strength, and actually places them at a higher risk of falling in the future.
There are many common factors that can increase the chance that an older adult will fall.
The risk of falling and being injured increases with age. People age 75 and older who fall are four to five times more likely to be admitted to a long-term care facility than those ages 65 to 74 (2).
Women experience more fall-related injuries than men, and sustain 75–80% of all hip fractures. This may be related to the higher prevalence of osteoporosis among women. However, the rate of deaths from fall-related injury is higher among men.
The risk of fall-related injury is greater for people with osteoporosis, arthritis, neurological and musculoskeletal disabilities, visual impairment, Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and clinical depression.
Some medicines can cause drowsiness or dizziness, and some drugs can interact with other medicines or alcohol and cause problems that may lead to falling.
Lack of regular exercise or physical activity, poor nutrition, low calcium and vitamin D intake, smoking, excessive alcohol use, substance abuse and misuse of medication are all associated with a higher risk of fall injury.
At home or in other places, the following hazards can lead to falling:
- Slippery or wet surfaces
- Uneven floors and surfaces
- Poor lighting
- Loose rugs
- Unstable furniture
- Clutter and objects on floors