LEXINGTON -- About 30 million adults age 65 and older fall each year. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about one in four, or 30%, of older adults in the United States report falling each year. That number is on par with the number of reported falls in Kentucky in 2016.
Falls are not a normal part of aging. They are preventable and with the help of your doctor, you can stay independent longer. There are, however, a number of risk factors that can make you more susceptible to falls, including weakness in your lower body, issues with balance or vision problems. Certain medications can put you more at risk as well.
There are simple steps you can take to prevent falling, including talking openly with your doctor about your fall risk and prevention strategies. Make sure you keep moving and work on exercises that strengthen your legs and promote balance, keep up to date on your vision checks and make any necessary modifications in your home to promote your independence.
Some older adults do not report a fall in the home out of fear of losing their independence. The reality is that a fall resulting in an injury increases your risk for loss of independence and even death. According to the CDC, falls are the leading cause of injury-related death in the older adult population. Not every fall causes an injury, but when they do, it can make life difficult. Whether you suffer a broken bone, a hip fracture or even a serious head or brain injury, it's important to call your doctor, even if you feel embarrassed or ashamed. One fall doubles your chance of falling again.
The University of Kentucky's HealthCare Trauma Program Office helps educate older Kentuckians to prevent falls leading to traumatic injuries. We do so by using the CDC's "Stopping Elderly Accidents, Deaths, & Injuries" (STEADI) program. Our education is built on STEADI's foundation: screen, access and intervene. Identify patients who are at risk for a fall, identify modifiable risk factors and use effective clinical and community strategies to intervene.
We also offer a class called "ThinkFirst for Falls" and it's not just for older adults. Anyone interested in preventing falls is welcome to join. Our team is happy to travel to senior centers, community classes and talk with children or grandchildren of aging parents about what they can do to prevent a fall, which can lead to poor quality of life. Our UK HealthCare nurses are also specially trained to educate families, identify patients at risk of falling and intervene when necessary.
If you're interested in learning more about the ThinkFirst for Falls class, please email email@example.com, or call the UK Trauma Program Office at 859-323-1116.
Check with your county's extension office or Department of Aging and Independent Living if you're interested in further programming. Some offer a multi-week class called "Matter of Balance," which teaches senior citizens with techniques to improve balance and prevent falls.
Amanda Rist is outreach/injury prevention coordinator for the UK HealthCare Trauma Program Office.