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Check Your Health is a new web-only feature being offered monthly by The Cheshire Herald. Each month, a professional from MidState Medical Center will offer advice on a different issue pertaining to health.
Taking an occasional slip and fall may not sound serious, but for many aging adults all over the country, even a seemingly minor fall can pose a big problem. Statistics from the Center for Healthy Aging estimate that 1.6 million falls occurred in 2002 alone. Of that number, 388,000 people were hospitalized; 75% occurred in adults over the age of 65; up to 20% resulted in a serious injury; and 95% of hip fractures were caused by the fall.
As shocking as it sounds, did you know that 25 percent of older adults who suffer from a hip fracture end up in long-term care within at least a year? Even scarier is the fact that 20 percent of those with a hip fracture typically die within one year of injury.
So, you ask, what puts someone at risk for falling? The answer to this question is dependent upon many factors. Living alone or being housebound, as well as being older than 75, are two prime risk factors. However, suffering from an acute illness like a heart attack or stroke, or a chronic condition like arthritis or Parkinson’s disease, can also put you at risk. Cognitive impairment, such as dementia, also plays a role. Finally, sensory deficits including reduced vision, altered depth perception, decreased peripheral vision, and decreased hearing and reduced strength and mobility, can increase your risk.
Fortunately, there are things you can do to help prevent falls in your home or any other place where you may be walking about. Routine exercise, like walking or biking, coupled with strength training and balance training, will help to maintain and improve your mobility.
Secondly, medication management is key. You should regularly discuss your medication list, both over-the-counter medicines and medicines for chronic conditions, with your primary care provider. At times, you may need to modify your medicines, lower the dose, or change the dosage you take at night. Understand the side effects of medicines, as some medicines can make you groggy and more susceptible to falls. Also make sure to keep your vision in check. Get regular eye exams and update the prescription on your glasses.
Reducing home hazards is another thing you can do to prevent falls. Maximize the lighting inside and outside of the home, especially in staircases and by doorways. Remove clutter from floors and stairs, secure throw rugs with double sided tape and cords or wires to adjacent walls. Install railings on stairs and grab bars in the shower. Take advantage of rubber mats and non-slip treads on stairs. You should store items you use frequently in lower cabinets to avoid climbing on stools and chairs.
And, if you or your loved one lives alone and is at increased risk for falls, consider a medical alert device. Remember, we can all prevent a fall.
Jill Aboulian, PA-C
MidState Medical Group