Fall Prevention and You

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in three adults aged 65 and older falls and these falls can cause moderate to severe injuries, such as hip fractures, spinal cord injuries (SCI), and traumatic brain injuries (TBI). Falls can also increase the risk of early death and they are the leading cause of injury related death among older adults. Below, you will find some statistics relating to older adults, injuries related to falls, and fall-related deaths (from the CDC):

  • The death rates from falls among older adults have risen sharply over the past decade.
  • Men are more likely than women to die from a fall. The date rate in 2009 was 34% higher for men than women, after taking age into account.
  • Rates also differ by ethnicity. Older Hispanics have lower fatal fall rates than older non-Hispanics.
  • People over the age of 75 who fall are four to five times more likely to be admitted to a long-term care facility for a year or longer than those who are aged between 65 to 74 years old.
  • Older women have higher fall-related fractures rates than older men.
  • Over 95% of hip fractures are caused by falls. In 2009, the rate for women was almost three times the rate for men.

Older adults are not the only ones who can be injured by falls. Children between birth and the age of 19 receive non-fatal injuries due to falls. Approximately 8,000 children are treated for fall related injuries every day. This means that almost 2.8 million children fall each year resulting in brain injuries, fractures, and missed day of school.

People with disabilities are also at risk for falls. Different disabilities may cause falls for different reasons. People with multiple sclerosis may fall due to loss of limb control while people who have had a stroke may fall due to loss of balance. People with seizure disorders may be injured if they fall when they have a seizure. Such disabilities as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis may cause a person to fall due to atrophy in their muscles. Each disability is unique in how the risks for falls manifest.

How can falls be prevented?

Older adults and people with disabilities can reduce their chances by:

  • Exercising regularly. The focus of the exercises should be on leg strength and improving balance (CDC). Before beginning any exercise regime, please contact your doctor to discuss your exercise plans. Visit the National Center for Health, Physical Activity, and Disability for information on adapted exercise.
  • Ask your doctor or pharmacist to review your medications (prescription and over the counter). Your doctor and pharmacist can identify which medicines may cause side effects or interactions such as dizziness or drowsiness.
  • Have your eyes checked by an eye doctor at least once a year. Also, updating your eyeglasses will help maximize your vision.
  • Make your homes safer by reducing tripping hazards, adding grab bars in the bathrooms,
  •  improving lightning inside your home, putting double-sided tape under small rugs to hold them in place, and adding railings on both sides of the stairs. Call Eldercare Locater (800/677-1116) to ask about money to help cover the costs of the home repairs mentioned here. Check Abledata’s database for safety and security technology options.

Parents and other adults can help reduce the risk of falls for children by:

  • Checking the surfaces under the playground equipment to make sure they are safe, soft, and well-maintained.
  • Using home safety devices. Such devices can help keep an active child from taking a dangerous tumble. They include guards on windows above ground level, stair gates, and guard rails.
  • Making sure that children wear protective gear during sports and other recreational activities. Such gear includes wrist guards, knee and elbow pads, and helmets.
  • Supervising young children at all times, especially around fall hazards.

The Research

We ran a search in the NIDRR Program Database and found several projects that are working towards fall prevention and training. Below are just a few of these projects:

  • The Rocky Mountain Regional Brain Injury Model System (RMRBIMS) in Englewood, CO. Project Number: H133A120032.
  • Falls-Based Training to Improve Balance and Mobility Post-Stroke in Birmingham, AL. Project Number: H133G120297.
  • Machines Assisting Recovery from Stroke and Spinal Cord Injury for Reintegration into Society (MARS3) in Chicago, IL. Project Number: H133E120010.

We also ran a search in REHABDATA and found various articles dealing falls, fall prevention, and disability:

  • Measurement and treatment of imbalance and fall risk in multiple sclerosis using the international classification of functioning, disability and health model. NARIC Accession Number: J66417.
  • Preventing falls. NARIC Accession Number: J66076.
  • Spinal cord injuries as a consequence of falls: Are there differential rehabilitation outcomes? NARIC Accession Number: J65641.

About mpgarcia

I'm the Bilingual Information/Media Specialist at NARIC.
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