by Leslie Horton, Director, Yavapai County Community Health Services
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, about one in four adults age 65 and older report falling each year. Falling is a traumatic event and can result in broken bones, head injuries and even death. Death rates related to falls are increasing nationally, as well as in the county. In 2015, there were 82 deaths due to falls in Yavapai County. Our county ranks second-highest in Arizona for age-adjusted fall injury-related hospital discharge rates. This is attributed to several factors, some of which are harsh weather conditions and uneven terrain.
Many individual factors could put one at risk for a fall, including muscle weakness from inactivity, vitamin D deficiency, use of three or more medications, vision problems, home and environmental hazards, and more.
As we enter into the winter months, it is a good idea to be aware of your health and surroundings and to take steps to reduce the risk of a fall.
Tips to prevent a fall
- Physical activity: Endurance, strength, and flexibility exercises can improve stability. Start with a gentle exercise and build up. Tai chi is an effective exercise to prevent a fall.
- Talk with your doctor: Let your healthcare team know if you have fallen. They may help you understand why the fall happened and if they are able to provide further assistance.
- Home and environment safety: Clear walkways and hallways of clutter and make sure non-slip rugs are in place.
- Be aware of daily habits that put you at risk: Something you’ve done over the years may no longer be safe. For example, wearing flip-flops affects how we walk or move and causes us to not pick up our feet.
- Enroll in a fall prevention program: These programs have been proven to be effective strategies and incorporate physical activity.
What if a fall happens?
Even if you work hard to prevent falls, sometimes life still happens. What should you do if a fall happens?
Let time be your friend. Use a few minutes to settle down, breathe, and take inventory. Ask those assisting you to wait a few minutes, giving you time to assess how you feel before any further action is taken. Depending on a helper’s physical condition, they may or may not be able to assist you without hurting themselves or causing further injury. The best thing to do is call 911. They will dispatch Emergency Medical Services. They respond to many fall calls and have the skills to properly assess your condition and move you.