As we continue to observe Older Americans Month and its theme, ‘Safe Today. Healthy Tomorrow.’, the focus in this final week of May is on myths about falls. As reported in 2010 by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 2.3 million nonfatal fall injuries among older adults were treated in emergency departments and more than 662,000 of these patients were hospitalized. The direct medical costs of falls were $30 billion. That makes senior safety a big issue.
What outcomes are linked to falls?
- Twenty to thirty percent of people who fall suffer moderate to severe injuries such as lacerations, hip fractures, or head traumas.These injuries can make it hard to get around or live independently, and increase the risk of early death.
- Falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries (TBI)
- In 2000, 46% of fatal falls among older adults were due to TBI
- Most fractures among older adults are caused by falls. The most common are fractures of the spine, hip, forearm, leg,ankle, pelvis, upper arm, and hand.
- Many people who fall, even if they are not injured, develop a fear of falling. This fear may cause them to limit their activities, which leads to reduced mobility and loss of physical fitness, and in turn increases their actual risk of falling.
What outcomes are linked to falls
- In 2010, about 21,700 older adults died from unintentional fall injuries.
- Men are more likely than women to die from a fall. After taking age into account, the falldeath rate in 2010 was 40 percent higher for men than for women.
- Older whites are 2.4 times more likely to die from falls as their black counterparts.
- Rates also differ by ethnicity. Older non-Hispanics have higher fatal fall rates than Hispanics.
In 2013 the National Council on Aging published, “Debunking the Myths of Older Adult Falls”
The ten myths about falls are:
Myth 1: Falling happens to other people, not to me.
Reality: The truth is that 1 in 3 older adults—about 12 million—fall every year in the U.S.
Myth 2: Falling is something normal that happens as you get older.
Reality: Falling is not a normal part of aging. Strength and balance exercises, managing your medications, having your vision checked and making your living environment safer are all steps you can take to prevent a fall.
Myth 3: If I limit my activity, I won't fall.
Reality: Not true. Performing physical activities will actually help you stay independent, as your strength and range of motion benefit from remaining active. Social activities are also good for your overall health.
Myth 4: As long as I stay at home, I can avoid falling.
Reality: Over half of all falls take place at home. Inspect your home for fall risks.
Myth 5: Muscle strength and flexibility can't be regained.
Reality: While we do lose muscle as we age, exercise can partially restore strength and flexibility. It’s never too late to start an exercise program..
Myth 6: Taking medication doesn't increase my risk of falling.
Reality: Medications affect people in many different ways and can sometimes make you dizzy or sleepy. Be careful when starting a new medication.
Myth 7: I don't need to get my vision checked every year.
Reality: People with vision problems are more than twice as likely to fall as those without visual impairment. Have your eyes checked at least once a year and update your eyeglasses.
Myth 8: Using a walker or cane will make me more dependent.
Reality: Walking aids are very important in helping many older adults maintain or improve their mobility.
Myth 9: I don’t need to talk to family members or my health care provider if I’m concerned about my risk of falling. I don’t want to alarm them, and I want to keep my independence.
Reality: Fall prevention is a team effort. Bring it up with your doctor, family, and anyone else who is in a position to help.
Myth 10: I don't need to talk to my parent, spouse, or other older adult if I’m concerned about their risk of falling. It will hurt their feelings, and it's none of my business.
Reality: Let them know about your concerns and offer support to help them maintain the highest degree of independence possible.
H.O.M.E. helps Chicago’s low-income seniors maintain their independence by providing services unlike any organization in the City of Chicago. We want a city where older adults can live safe, healthy and independent lives. While falls are a threat to the health and independence of older adults and can significantly limit their ability to remain self-sufficient, the opportunity to reduce falls among older adults has never been better. Today, there are proven interventions that can reduce falls and help older adults live better, and longer and H.O.M.E. is on the forefront of this effort in Chicago
- In the Upkeep and Repair we install hand rails to make stairs safe, install grab bars in key areas and replace broken light fixtures so seniors have better lighting
- Our Shopping Bus drive helps seniors on and off of our handicap accessible bus. He even carries their groceries into their apartment building.
- H.O.M.E.’s moving program offers seniors support and assistance through one of .life’s most stressful events—moving from one home to another. Frequently we are able to move seniors into handicap accessible building, where there is less likelihood of falling.
We’ve been celebrating the seniors in our intergenerational housing program throughout the month with the musical gifts from one of our residents, Olga and her friend, as well as from Rik Stringham who was featured on our blog last week. We’ll continue to celebrate with our clients at a party at Nathalie Salmon House, 7320 North Sheridan Road on Thursday, May 29 at 4:00. Please join us for the celebration and a wonderful picnic style dinner.