Preventing Falls on the First Day of Fall

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Monday, 22 September 2014

Depending on who's talking, today is the first day of fall or tomorrow is the first day of fall. The day has to do with the tilt of the earth, northern and southern hemispheres, daylight savings time and

Oh, never mind. Here in the United States, all of September is designated National Falls Prevention Month By The National Council on Aging (NCOA) and tomorrow, Tuesday, is Falls Prevention Awareness Day in 47 states and the District of Columbia.

I like that someone, a few years ago, connected falls and Fall making it a handy reminder for an annual prevention checkup.

Now don't go yawning. I write this post every year because unlike many old age afflictions, falls are something over which we have a lot of personal control. All we need is some vigilance.

Falling is serious business for old people:


Did you see those words “leading cause”? That means, the NCOA tells us, someone in our age group dies from a fall every 29 minutes.

Every year, one-third of Americans 65 and older – 12 million of us – fall. Even if someone doesn't die from it, a broken bone can severely restrict the rest of an old person's life.

The good news is that falls are highly preventable. In past years, I have given you a long list of causes and remedies – the 2013 edition is here.


Here are the good – and frightening – facts about falls we should all know and pay attention to, collectively and individually:

  • One-third of all Americans age 65 and older fall each year.
  • To think about it another way, every 15 seconds an elder is seen in an emergency department for a fall-related injury.
  • More than 95 percent of hip fractures are caused by falls.
  • Men are more likely than women to die from a fall. After taking age into account, the death rate from falls in 2009 was 34% higher for men than for women

Many elders have multiple health problems and the more you have, the more likely you are to fall. Here are the most common health problems related to falling:

  • Difficulty walking or moving around
  • Four or more medications
  • Foot problems, unsafe footwear
  • Blood pressure drop on standing up/dizziness
  • Poor vision
  • Tripping hazards in the home

And here is a handy chart that should scare the pants off you about health problems related to falls:


All right. Does everyone get it that fall-related injuries are a major cause of pain, disability, loss of independence and premature death in elders? Or have I overdone that part?

Most falls can be prevented but we need to make some adjustments to our lives to keep ourselves and others safe. Here is a good general list:

  • Exercise. It makes you strong and improves balance.
  • Stand up slowly after you have been sitting or lying down to help avoid dizziness.
  • Have your vision checked every year. If you can't see well, you have a higher risk of falling.
  • Ask your physician or pharmacist about the drugs you use – prescription and over-the-counter. Some can cause sleepiness and dizziness that can lead to falling.
  • Do a safety assessment of your home and then make the necessary changes.


In regard to that last item – fall proofing your home – here is a partial list of important measures you can take to ensure your safety.

  • Increase the lighting; no dark areas or corners
  • Add grab bars in the tub, shower and next to the toilet
  • Always wear shoes with non-skid soles – even indoors
  • Remove all throw rugs
  • Immediately wipe up all spills
  • Install nightlights to lead you to the bathroom
  • Use non-skid mats in the shower and on the bathroom floor
  • Remove clutter from floors to prevent tripping

This year, I discovered an excellent, easy-to-read falls and fractures section at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) website that lists the variety of causes with links to the best information for prevention.

This NCOA page clears up some myths about falls.

And remember, too, what your mother repeatedly warned you: “Watch where you're going.”

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marc Leavitt: E Pluribus Unum