Rosenthal: Stay on your feetWritten by Guest Author | | GuestAuthor@toledofreepress.com
Every 13 seconds, an older adult is rushed to an emergency department because of a fall. In fact, so many older adults are falling that it’s now the leading cause of accidental death among the elderly. However, most of these accidents can be prevented.
From 2000-12, Ohioans aged 65 and older experienced a 167 percent increase in the number of fatal falls, according to the Ohio Department of Health (ODH). On average, about three older Ohioans suffered fatal falls each day in 2012. The ODH reports falls among older adults cost the state and its residents $646 million in 2012.
The costs can be psychological, too. As a physical medicine and rehabilitation physician at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, I’ve seen that patients who have fallen before often develop a fear of falling, which puts them at an even higher risk of falling again.
There are many reasons why patients fall, including vision or medication problems, or even conditions like diabetes and low blood pressure.
That’s why it’s so important for doctors to assess patients from head-to-toe, examining their history of falls and medical history, along with testing their gait and balance.
The following tips may help reduce the risk of falling at home:
- Remove clutter to create clear paths for walking in the home.
- Remove throw rugs or use double-sided tape to keep rugs from slipping.
- Install handrails and lights on staircases.
- Install grab bars inside and outside the shower and by the toilet.
- Use nonslip mats in the bathtub and on shower floors.
- Extend the chain on ceiling fans to make them easily reachable.
- Get up slowly and turn on a light before walking across the room.
- Wear shoes both inside and outside the house. Avoid wearing slippers.
Falling is not an inevitability that comes with age.
There are steps doctors, patients and caretakers can take to help prevent falls.
Dr. Joe Rosenthal is a physical medicine and rehabilitation physician at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.