At St. Joseph Health - Sonoma County, patient safety is our top priority
whether you are in the hospital or at home. Each year, millions of older
people -those 65 and older - fall. In fact, one out of three older people
fall each year, but less than half tell their doctor. It is important
to remember this because falling once doubles your their chances of falling
again. Many people may be unaware of potential falls hazards within their
home or diet so we have provided a list of valuable resources to keep
you and your family safe.
Falls are serious and costly
- One out of five falls causes a serious injury such as broken bones or a
- Each year, 2.5 million older people are treated in emergency departments
for fall injuries
- Over 700,000 patients a year are hospitalized because of a fall injury,
most often because of a head injury or hip fracture
- Each year, at least 250,000 older people are hospitalized for hip fractures
- More than 95% of hip fractures are caused by falling, usually by falling sideways
- Falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries (TBI)
- Adjusted for inflation, the direct medical costs for fall injuries are
$34 billion annually
- Hospital costs account for two-thirds of the total
What Increases Your Likelihood of a Fall?
Research has identified many conditions that contribute to falling. These
are called risk factors. Many risk factors can be changed or modified
to help prevent falls. They include:
- Lower body weakness
- Vitamin D deficiency
- Difficulties with walking and balance
- Use of medicines, such as tranquilizers, sedatives, or antidepressants.
Even some over-the-counter medicines can affect balance and how steady
you are on your feet.
- Vision problems
- Foot pain or poor footwear
Home hazards or dangers such as
- broken or uneven steps,
- throw rugs or clutter that can be tripped over, and
- no handrails along stairs or in the bathroom.
Most falls are caused by a combination of risk factors. The more risk factors
a person has, the greater their chances of falling. However, falls can
be prevented. These are some simple things you can do to keep yourself
from falling, including a talk with your doctor.
Ask your doctor or healthcare provider to
evaluate your risk for falling and talk with them about specific things you can do.
Ask your doctor or pharmacist to
review your medicines to see if any might make you dizzy or sleepy. This should include prescription
medicines and over-the counter medicines.
Ask your doctor or healthcare provider about taking
vitamin D supplements with calcium.
Medications that increase your risk of a fall:
- Hypnosedatives and benzodiazepines
- neuroleptics and antipsychotics
- polypharmacy (the use of at least three medications)
What Can Happen After a Fall?
Many falls do not cause injuries. But one out of five falls does cause
a serious injury such as a broken bone or a head injury. These injuries
can make it hard for a person to get around, do everyday activities, or
live on their own.
- Falls can cause broken bones, like wrist, arm, ankle, and hip fractures.
- Falls can cause head injuries. These can be very serious, especially if
the person is taking certain medicines (like blood thinners). An older
person who falls and hits their head should see their doctor right away
to make sure they don’t have a brain injury.
- Many people who fall, even if they’re not injured, become afraid
of falling. This fear may cause a person to cut down on their everyday
activities. When a person is less active, they become weaker and this
increases their chances of falling.
Reducing Falls Risk & Injury
Exercise - Improve your gait (manner of walking), strength, and balance
Medication review - Ask your doctor or pharmacist to review your prescriptions, over-the-counter
medications, and vitamins and minerals in order to look at side effects,
such as dizziness and drowsiness.
Home safety - About 50% of falls by older adults happen in the home. Go through your
home thoroughly to remove hazards, such as clutter and things to trip
on. Consider adding supports like grab bars in your bathroom, and use
night lights and better lighting in your home.
Check your vision - Get annual eye exams