Be Prepared Not To Fall

Preventive health care is something we practice in order to stay healthy, enjoy a good quality of life and increase our life span.

While many Americans work very hard at achieving optimal health, they often do not recognize that one of the biggest health hazards is falling.

Everybody Falls

No one age group or demographic is immune from falling and suffering subsequent trauma.

“Falling can be seen much more frequently in the elderly population due to the physiological process of aging as well as the presence of some disorders that can directly or indirectly predisposes you to falls,” said Dr.Yevgeniya Kushchayeva of the Diabetes and Endocrinology Center at USF Health. For example, age-related loss of muscle density, degenerative joint disease, decrease in bone mass can result in mechanical skeletal failure. Other medical problems that may cause falls include but are not limited to: stroke, dementia, depression, low blood pressure, arrhythmia, and Parkinson’s disease.”

For children, we have implemented safety standards, protocols and laws to help ensure their safety, such as window guards, modified furniture etc.  But in the elderly population, a keener and personal eye is needed in order to assess their environment and meet their individual safety needs. Seniors are at a higher risk of serious injury and even death as result of a fall.

Have You fallen Recently?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), at least 1 in 4 seniors fall each year but less than half are forthcoming with their doctor out of fear of losing their independence. It is encouraged that any falls should be reported to the doctor, because one fall is an indicator of future falls.

“Falls can lead not only to direct negative consequences such as fractures, bruises, injuries of different degree of severity, but also can cause inactivity, functional decline, dependency, loss of self-confidence, depression and eventually can affect life span,” said Dr. Kushchayeva.

Your Doctor Can Tell You If You Are Headed For A Fall

There are many reasons why an older adult, (65 and older) is prone to falling and many of them can be addressed and remedied by a trip to the doctor.

Your doctor will perform an evaluation on the following risk factors:

  • Balance and gait
  • Deficiency of vitamin D
  • Foot assessment: check for pain and proper footwear
  • Home evaluation: check for hazards such as uneven steps, rugs, etc.
  • Medications: many medications including prescription and over-the-counter medications can cause dizziness or disorientation that contribute to falls.
  • Vision exam
  • Weakness in the lower body

“There are basic specific things that can help prevent and/or reduce falling frequency. Some of them are strength and balance exercises that can be done in classes or at home, improvement in vision and/or hearing, comfortable shoes and safe home environments,” said Kushchayeva.

Home – An Accident Waiting to Happen

We generally consider home our sanctuary. Home is where we feel safe, comforted and at ease.  But our homes can also be full of safety hazards which are conducive to falls.  Fall – proofing your home can be done by:

  • Arranging the furniture in such a way that is easy to navigate.
  • Create an easy environment where items are within reach and easy to put away.
  • Carpets and rugs should be secured to floor to avoid slipping.
  • Installing handrails on stairwells.
  • Installing handrails in shower/tub.
  • Integrating non-slip items in the bathroom, including floors and shower/tub area.
  • Keep flooring dry.
  • Maintaining clear pathways throughout the home.
  • Making sure to have sufficient lighting throughout the home.
  • Night lights are recommended.
  • Pets can be a tripping hazard as well, create an environment that is safe for people and pets.

Safety first is always the best approach in accident prevention, these simple preventive measures can benefit everyone.

Encourage loved ones to be frank with their health care providers regarding past falls to ensure an active and bright future.

To learn more visit Diabetes and Endocrinology Center at USF Health.

To book an appointment, please call (813) 974-2201.

USF Health Making Life Better

Written by  Ercilia Colón

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