I have probably written about this before but it bears repeating. Falling is a killer for older adults. I would guess that if you were to ask 10 people over age 65 “Have you or a loved one experienced a debilitating fall?” the answer over 80 percent of the time would be “yes.” According the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) the rate of severe falls has been increasing for Americans over the age of 65. Researchers note that one reason for the increase in falls may be the link to diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke, arthritis and Parkinson’s disease. The CDC adds that in some cases, the medication to treat the disease can increase the risk of falling.
While Americans became frantic recently over one death from Ebola in this country you don’t hear much concern about the number of people over 65 who died after a fall. Would you believe 24,000 in 2012? That, according to the CDC is almost double the number reported 10 years earlier. In addition, more than 2.4 million people over 65 were treated in emergency departments for injuries from falls in 2012 alone. Falls, according to the CDC, are the leading cause of injury-related death for those over 65.
Now, one more scary statistic to make you take notice. Currently 10,000 people turn 65 every day in this country and that trend will continue for the next 19 years! Baby Boomers are not immune. There is no vaccine for falls.
As most people who read the blogs Sharon and I have been posting know we designed and built an “age-friendly” home in Central Point that has been certified to the Rogue Valley Council of Governments “Lifelong Housing” standard. This home has no step entry, wider doors and a host of other features…including some to help us avoid falls.
Lighting is critically important for older adults, not just for reading, but for navigating. We have a a lot of light in our house and even in the dead of night it is possible to see our way to the bathroom without turning on a light. Also, in the bathroom the light in the toilet has a motion sensor so it comes on automatically. In our guest bathroom we have grab bars in the bathtub and around the toilet. In our shower we also have a grab bar. Some would say since we are healthy adults why do we need grab bars? To me grab bars are like seat belts…..you don’t need them until you need them and then they are lifesavers. Think about installing grab bars in your bathroom before it is too late.
Another simple step to preventing falls is to get ride of scatter rugs. They may look attractive but can be lethal to slow moving folks that shuffle their feet when they walk. Exercise can also improve one’s balance and I have been told (but haven’t verified) that Tai Chi can improve one’s stability.
While Sharon and I have been vigilant in trying to prevent falls in our home we have one hazard that remains. Out new little puppy Lucy is often underfoot and Sharon has bought a lot of little toys for her that often get under foot. If you come to visit watch your step.