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Keep older adults safe from falls

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More than 1 in 4 adults age 65 or older fall each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 3 million older people are treated in ERs for fall-related injuries. Why is this happening?

The National Council on Aging points out that falls among older adults occur for a variety of reasons, including loss of balance and coordination; poor vision, which can make it hard to see objects in the way; medications, which can cause dizziness; and chronic conditions such as diabetes, stroke or arthritis.

The NCOA offers six steps family members and caregivers can take to help reduce falls among older adults:
Get their support. “Many older adults recognize that falling is a risk, but they believe it won’t happen to them or they won’t get hurt – even if they’ve already fallen in the past.” Suggest that they discuss the dangers of falls with their doctor, who can do a risk assessment.
Ask about their health. Encourage older adults to speak openly about their health and schedule annual health screenings.
Ask about their vision. If your loved one wears glasses, check that their prescription is current.
Pay attention. Is your loved one walking into walls or furniture, or having difficulty getting out of a chair? These may be signs that they need to see a physical therapist for help with balance and strength. A cane or walker also might be useful.
Inquire about medications. “If your older loved one is having a hard time keeping track of medicines or is experiencing side effects, encourage them to discuss their concerns with their doctor and pharmacist.”
Do a safety walkthrough of their home. Check that the older adult’s residence has adequate lighting, especially at the top and bottom of stairs, and that the stairs have secure rails. Consider installing grab bars in the bathtub or shower and near the toilet.

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