The National Council on Aging (NCOA) calls attention to the risks and dangers of falls each year through its Falls Prevention Awareness Week, which is observed this year from September 18 through September 24. National Falls Prevention Awareness Day is always observed on September 22, which is also the first day of fall.
Older Americans and falls
The NCOA reports falls are the leading cause of both fatal and non-fatal injuries to our senior population. In fact, they state that more than one in every four Americans aged 65 and over suffers a fall annually. The organization expects the overall costs for fall injuries to exceed $100 billion by the year 2030. Many of these falls are preventable, and per the NCOA, “[t]hrough practical lifestyle adjustments, evidence-based falls prevention programs, and clinical-community partnerships, the number of falls among seniors can be substantially reduced.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports about 36 million falls per year here in the United States, with about 37% resulting in injuries requiring medical care. Texas has one of the higher fall rate percentages in the country.
The NCOA also reports these statistics:
- “For older adults in the U.S., fall death rates went up by 30% from 2007-2016, and researchers predict there will be 7 deadly falls every hour by 2030.
- People with mild hearing loss are nearly three times as likely to fall, with each 10 decibels of hearing loss increasing fall risk.
- The majority (60%) of falls happen in the home, 30% in a public setting, and 10% in a health care center.”
When accidental falls do happen, especially to older people, they can cause serious and life-threatening injuries.
What injuries can happen from falls?
Falls can cause injuries in anyone of any age. However, they pose a unique risk for the elderly. This segment of the population is more at risk for bone fractures. Wrist and hip fractures, traumatic brain injuries, neck and shoulder injuries, and even spinal cord injuries are all common fall injuries. Senior citizens may also be prone to infections or surgery complications, which puts them at even further risk after a fall. In the most tragic cases, a fall can cause fatal injuries.
How can I decrease the risk of fall injuries?
The majority of falls are preventable, and both the NCOA and the Mayo Clinic offers a variety of tips for older Americans and their loved ones to reduce the personal risks and hazards of falls around the house. Take some time this Falls Prevention Awareness Week to see how you’re doing with these fall prevention strategies:
- Talk to your doctors about any medications you’re taking that might cause dizziness or weakness that may increase the risk of falling. They may have alternative medications that don’t cause these side effects. If you’re concerned about falling, don’t be afraid to mention that to your physician, either.
- Try an exercise program to increase balance and flexibility. This can be low-impact – no need to be a star athlete. Yoga is an ideal activity.
- Consider your footwear. Flimsy slippers, high heels, and even stocking feet all raise the risk of a fall. Shoes or slippers with non-skid soles and a proper fit reduce the risk and, as a bonus, can help with any joint pain.
- Have your hearing and vision checked annually. Your ears and eyes are important in helping you keep your balance, so it’s important to ensure your vision and hearing are in good working order to avoid falls.
- Remove falling hazards from your home. Things like electrical cords, boxes, loose rugs and carpets, or broken stairs are all big trip and fall dangers. Place things you need to use often (like dishes and pantry items) within reach so you don’t need to climb to get to them. Use nonslip mats and rugs in showers and bathrooms. Lastly, put away children’s and/or pet toys at the end of the day to avoid tripping over them in the dark.
- Use assistive devices to make things easier. Your doctor might recommend a cane or walker. You can also make some simple changes around the house with the help of your family or a local contractor – sturdy handrails for your indoor and outdoor stairs, raised toilet seats, grab bars for showers and tubs, shower seats, and non-slip treads for wood stairs.
The Mayo Clinic also mentions that you can also ask your doctor for a referral to talk to an occupational therapist about other fall prevention strategies to implement around the home.
What if I fall and get hurt and it’s not my fault?
Although many older Americans do fall and suffer injury at home, as mentioned earlier, the NCOA reports that 30% of falls occur in a public setting, and 10% happen in a health care center. When preventable falls happen in places like this, it’s often due to the negligence of others – which, under Texas law, makes you or your loved one eligible for a personal injury action.
Some examples of this include:
- Slipping and falling at a place of business. If someone falls at a place of business, the owner of that property may be held liable for any resulting injuries. To prove negligence, your Texas injury attorney must show that the business or property owner was aware of the hazardous condition that led to the fall but failed to do anything to prevent it.
- Falling at nursing homes or assisted living. Long-term care facilities and residences are meant to keep our senior citizens safe. However, negligent staff and unsafe conditions can put them at risk for falls and injuries. These hazards can include understaffing, lack of fall prevention strategies, unsafe premises, and lack of proper maintenance.
Nursing homes and hospitals especially have a heightened duty of care to keep patients safe. Residents often have pre-existing conditions that make them prone to falling, and staff must be proactive in protecting them from injury.
If you or your loved one suffered serious harm in a fall, the personal injury attorneys at Slack Davis Sanger want to help. We understand the severe complications that can come along with a fall, especially in our elderly population, and it’s important to secure the proper compensation to cover your medical bills, as well as your pain and suffering. To schedule a free consultation about your case, call us at 800-455-8686, or submit our contact form today. We serve clients and families out of our offices in Dallas, Austin, and Fort Worth.