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Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Fall-Related Injuries in Elderlies and How to Prevent Them

Fall-related injuries are the most common cause of morbidity and mortality in the elderly population. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the reported rate of fall-related injuries and death increase rapidly with age. This is attributed to the fact that as you age, your general body functions also decline.

Since aging is true to all people regardless of gender, nationality and socio-economic status, fall-related injuries have become a global concern. Findings of a research study conducted in September 2011 proved that these injuries have great societal impact not only because they reduce the quality of life of the elderlies but also due to their high hospitalization cost.

These consequences lead to the emergence of advocacies aimed at preventing fall-related injuries in the older population. A 2013 study claims that fall-preventive programs have been shown to reduce the incidence of falls, most especially in the high-risk population.

Fall Injuries in Elderlies

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 2015 report shows that unintentional falls account to a total of 3 million cases, or 63.8% of nonfatal injuries, for ages 65 and older. Reported death secondary to falls totaled to 28,000 in the same year alone.

Those are alarmingly high numbers. What could be the reason why elderlies are prone to falls?

As you age, your body’s central nervous system experiences a progressive decline. This could lead to loss of coordination, hearing and visual impairment, diminished proprioception, and reduced hand-eye coordination. Body tissues also lose mass (a process called atrophy) and may decrease in size and tone. Connective tissues become rigid and stiff.

Aside from these physiologic changes, the majority of older people tend to take maintenance medications, making them at risk of suffering from the side effects of these drugs. Warfarin, for example, increases the risk of bleeding following an injury because it serves to diminish blood clotting.

Some fall-related injuries are mild and promise full recovery. These include minor abrasions and bruises. However, severe cases like fractures, dislocations, and brain injuries could also happen. Ground level falls (GLF), although less traumatic to younger people, has been shown to result in death of elderlies according to a 2010 research.

Fall-Preventive Measures

Now that you know the facts, it’s time for you to apply certain measures to prevent falls:

1.Raising awareness - Talk to your elderly loved ones about their fear of falling. Discuss with them the factors that contribute to that fear. Doing so could give you a clue on certain areas that you might need to change such as routines and equipment.

2. Health conditions - Ask them about how they are feeling. You could start with their senses. Are they having trouble with vision or hearing? Then you can go to their medication and its side effects. Help them manage their well-being by raising these concerns to their doctor.

3. Balance exercises - Poor body coordination related to aging makes it harder for older people to do daily activities. Regular balance exercises like Tai Chi address this problem while promoting a fun and engaging activity for elderlies.

4. Hazard modification - The primary mechanisms of fall injuries in older patients are stumbling, tripping and slipping These 3 causes contribute to 30% of geriatric fall cases. Hazard modification efforts could reduce the risk of fall injuries. Some practices include:

  • Providing adequate lighting especially in hallways, stairs, bathroom and bedroom. Some elderlies might have trouble seeing the dark.
  • Installing handlebars in the bathtub and grab bars on the walls of the bathroom so that they can hold onto them for support.
  • Making sure that the stairs and balconies are secured with rails.
  • Removing clutters on the floor to prevent tripping accidents.
  • Orienting them when changes have been made in the house like rearranged and added furniture.
  • Immediately drying any spilled drink or water on the floor to prevent slipping accidents.
  • Placing fall safety mats beside the bed so that you’d be alerted when your elderly loved ones have fallen from their bed. These mats also provide some cushion to reduce the impact of the fall. Click here for more information.
  • Opting for non-slip mats all over the house. Wearing non-slip shoes and socks are also great options.
  • Choosing clothes that fit well. Clothes that have long hems and are too loose could make movement difficult for them.
Various efforts to raise public awareness regarding falls have also been initiated. In fact, National Falls Prevention Awareness Day is being celebrated every September for this very purpose.

It is unwise to dismiss the risk of falling, especially in older adults. You could work with your family members and family caregiver to provide them with comfortable life. Taking these necessary measures to prevent fall incidence could ensure that your elderly loved ones are safe and as healthy as they could be.

Do you know any other measures to avoid fall injuries? Share your comments in the comment section below.

This is a guest blog posting.

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