Every year, one in three Americans aged 65-plus falls and that risk rises with age. Falls can result in injury, hospitalization, loss of independence and even death. There are many factors that may increase one's risk for falling:
- Physical conditions such as high blood pressure, gait and mobility impairments, or loss of muscle tone and strength
- Medication side effects and interactions
- Vision or hearing impairments
- Psychological or cognitive conditions such as dementia, depression or inability to concentrate
- Environmental factors such as clutter, loose cords, poor lighting or loose steps
Some older adults who have fallen once may develop a fear of falling again. As a result, they may limit both their physical and social activities. This limit in physical activity can further increase their risk of falling. With immobility, loss in muscle tone and strength can occur in a very short time.
What You Can Do
- Here are some steps that you can take to evaluate and reduce your risk for falls:
- Talk to your doctor. Tell him if you have fallen in the last six months, if you feel dizzy, or have almost fallen but caught yourself.
- Review your medications with your doctor. Be sure to include over-the-counter medications as well as any supplements that you might take.
- Talk to your doctor about an evaluation by a physical therapist or occupational therapist. Your doctor can order an in-home evaluation if you are at risk.
- Talk to your doctor about a physical activity program that will increase your strength. Many exercises can be done at home or at senior centers.
- Have your vision and hearing checked regularly.
- Do a home safety assessment. A family member or friend can assist you. Make modifications and changes.
- Use mobility aids, such as a cane or walker, if your doctor has prescribed them.
The Community Services Agency of Mountain View and Los Altos senior case management program provides in-home falls assessments and resources for seniors who use their services.
In Santa Clara and San Mateo County, adults aged 65 or older may be eligible to participate in a free home-based program called Farewell to Falls, which is provided through the Trauma Service and Emergency Department at Stanford University Medical Center. You will receive a visit from an occupational therapist, who will evaluate you and your home for fall risks and enroll you in a home-based exercise program. For more information, see the brochure listed below.
You may also want to consider signing up for an Emergency Response system like Lifeline, available from El Camino Hospital, in case you do fall and need assistance. You can call Lifeline directly for information and service at (650) 940-7016.
Farewell to Falls Program Brochure
My Falls-Free Plan by Washington State Department of Health, Injury & Violence Prevention Program
A Home Fall Prevention Checklist for Older Adults by Center for Disease Control and Prevention
Home Safety Assessment (Microsoft Word document)
Home Modification: How to Safety Proof a Loved One's Home by National Caregivers Library
Community Services Agency Senior Case Management Program