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Preventing Slips and Falls Among Older Adults

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Dangers around the home cause thousands of unintentional deaths per year. And falls are the cause of the most common fatal and nonfatal injuries among older adults.

According to the Centers for Disease Control:

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  • In 2010, 2.3 million nonfatal fall injuries among older adults were treated in emergency departments, with more than 662,000 of these patients hospitalized.
  • In 2010, the direct medical costs of falls, adjusted for inflation, was $30 billion.
  • Between 20% and 30% of falls among adults age 65 and older result in hip fractures, head lacerations, and head trauma -- injuries that can make it more difficult to live on their own.

The CDC says more than one-third of adults 65 and older fall each year -- and fewer than half of them discuss falling with their health care provider.

Even if a fall doesn't result in an injury, it can instill a fear of falling in older adults, limiting their mobility and weakening their muscles. That, in turn, can make falling an even higher risk.

Safety Measures to Prevent Falling

There are numerous safety measures you can take to prevent slips and falls in your home:

  • Stairways should have handrails on both sides.
  • Attach safety treads to steps.
  • Remove tripping hazards such as throw rugs, furniture, and clutter from walkways.
  • Use self-adhesive, non-skid mats or safety treads in bathtubs, showers, and pools.
  • Use non-skid rugs on bathroom floors.
  • Use non-skid pads under rugs on bare floors.
  • Install grab bars on both sides of toilets and bathtubs, especially on those used by seniors.

Researchers say the risks of seniors falling are greater if they have lower body weakness, problems with walking and balance, or are taking four or more medications. To reduce their risk, elderly people should get regular exercise to increase their lower body strength and improve balance. And their doctor or pharmacist should review and revise, if necessary, their medications to reduce side effects and interactions.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Varnada Karriem-Norwood, MD on February 16, 2014
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