So apparently, Sept. 22 was Fall Prevention Awareness Day, a relatively recent date that has only been observed nine times so far. That is still no excuse for tardiness, especially since the CDC has released findings that show falls are the leading cause of death-by-injury among older American adults.
As the agency noted, older adults in the United States experience a fall roughly once every second. In 2014 alone, older Americans suffered 29 million falls. By themselves, this resulted in seven million injuries, roughly 27,000 deaths, and incurred healthcare costs estimated at $31 billion.
Even if a fall does not kill, it can often signal the end of an independent lifestyle due to fractures or other injuries. Aging people are more prone to chronic health issues that can cause, exacerbate, or be exacerbated by a fall or any immobility or rehab that comes afterwards. Unfortunately, the CDC has predicted that the number of falls is only going to rise in the coming years. The reason for this is simple: the graying population is seeing over 10,000 Americans turning 65 every day.
Since preventative measures are so important for falls, the CDC has created the Stopping Elderly Accidents, Deaths, and Injuries (STEADI) initiative. The aim of the program is to make fall prevention routine among healthcare providers. STEADI is based on clinical guidelines and offers resources for caregivers, patients, and healthcare workers alike. For example, the CDC suggests healthcare providers begin with three simple steps that can be added to any office visit:
- Ask the patient if they have fallen in the past year, feel unsteady, or worry about falling
- Review medications and consider stopping, switching, or adjusting dosages of those known to increase fall risk
- Recommend vitamin D supplements
For older adults themselves, the following are some of the fall prevention strategies the CDC suggests:
- Talk to your healthcare provider about fall prevention and tell them if you have experienced a recent fall (about 50% of those who fall don’t tell their doctor)
- Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about medications that may make you more likely to fall
- Have your eyes checked once per year and update eyeglasses as needed
- Participate in evidence-based programs (the CDC suggests Tai Chi) that can improve balance or strengthen legs
- Remove fall hazards within the home
More in-depth information about the STEADI initiative can be found here.
“Falls are a leading cause of injury and death in older Americans,” CDC web site, September 22, 2016; https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2016/p0922-older-adult-falls.html, last accessed September 23, 2016.