While we spend many blog posts on the topic of orthopedic tumors, which are a unique specialty of Greater Dallas Orthopaedics, many of our patients come to us for more common breaks, fractures, and injuries. One of the most frequent causes of these injuries is falling, and this is especially true for patients of advanced age.
According to the CDC, falls are the leading cause of nonfatal injuries in people 65 years or older, and as people do get older, the level of injury they sustain only increases. That being the case, we’d like to dedicate this article to a discussion about how you can better prevent yourself or your loved ones from falling.
Risk factors for falls are split into two basic categories: personal and medical. Personal risk factors include your age, your level of activity, your dietary habits, and your lifestyle habits. The older you are, the less active you are, the worse your diet is, and poorer your lifestyle habits are, the more likely you are to suffer falls and be substantially injured by those falls.
Medical risk factors to be aware of effect balance & coordination as well as bone health. Neurologic conditions, blood pressure fluctuation, vision or hearing loss, and senility can make falls much more likely. Bone cancer, side effects from medications, osteoporosis, and arthritis can exacerbate the injuries sustained from the falls.
Understanding these risk factors are critical when developing a plan to mitigate the possibility and damage sustained from a fall.
No matter whose advice you seek for fall prevention, they are likely to start in the same place: exercise. Staying active in a sensible way increases strength, balance, and coordination, making a fall much less likely. For those with osteoporosis, exercise can actually help increase bone strength, reducing the damage done by a fall.
Even for individuals who are more advanced in age, a small, doctor-recommended activity program can be a lifesaving step.
An easy change for people of any age to make to prevent falls is to reconsider their footwear choices. Trade heels for flats with a decent grip. Throw out worn slippers and never walk around the house in socks or stockings, especially on hardwood flooring. Making doctor-recommend footwear choices will not only mitigate falls, but also help to reduce overall joint pain in the ankle, knees, and hips.
We could write an entire additional blog with room-by-room information regarding fall prevention, but for the purposes of this post, we’ll be focusing on some high-level guidelines. Making your home a less dangerous place starts with diligently removing clutter and creating reliable walkways from where you sit & sleep to light switches. The majority of falls happen in the dark, so having a trusted path can make a world of difference.
Additionally, there are more literal changes you can make to a home to mitigate the possibility of falling. Consider your furniture configuration to ensure you have plenty of space for movement without tripping. Secure loose rugs and replace loose floorboards. Consider carpeting over hardwood, and choose solid colors over patterned carpet to better illustrate changes in terrain, especially near stairs.
Lastly, and potentially most importantly, light up your living space to the greatest extent possible. From night lights to motion-activated lights, being able to see your path can make all the difference during critical moments.
As an extension of Home Adjustments point, the addition of assistive devices to you or your loved one’s home can save a life. Some of the most common assistive devices include slip-resistant rugs in the bathroom & kitchen, handrails on both sides of the stairway, grab bars in the shower or near the toilet, and sturdy, raised toilet seats. There are a virtually infinite number of assistive devices on the market today that suit each individual’s needs. There are even companies who can build custom solutions for more unique problems.
We sincerely hope this overview can prevent a fall in you or a loved one’s future. While this list is far from exhaustive, it’s a great place to start. One of the most important notes that isn’t mentioned in the above points is communication. If you’ve fallen or if you’re more afraid of falling, reach out. Tell your friends, family, and especially your doctors. Creating a fall prevention plan must start with an honest conversation about your concerns and your limitations.
In the unfortunate event that you or a loved one does fall and sustain an injury, the specialists at Greater Dallas Orthopaedics are here to help. Our team has decades of combined experience helping patients of all ages return to full strength following a fracture, break, or injury due to a fall. No matter what case is in front of us, we always treat it with compassionate care.