Many people remember the catchphrase, “I’ve fallen … and I can’t get up!” from a TV commercial for a medical alarm company. While the phrase has been repeated in humorous situations over the years, falling is a very serious problem among older adults.
In fact, falls are one of the leading causes of injury in the metro-Milwaukee area. We are committed to reducing your risk of falling.
Falls and Injuries
The risk of being seriously injured in a fall increases with age.
- The rate of fall injuries for adults age 85 and older is four to five times that of adults age 65-74.
- The rate of fall-related fractures among older adults is more than twice as high for women as for men.
- People age 75 and older who fall are four to five times more likely to be admitted to a long-term care facility for a year or longer.
Tips to Prevent Falls
Falls are not just the result of getting older. Many falls can be prevented. By making some changes, you can reduce your risk of falling.
- Exercise regularly. Exercise programs such as Tai Chi that increase strength and improve balance are especially good or see a physical therapist for instruction in an exercise program that is specific for you.
- Ask your doctor or pharmacist to review your medicines — both prescription and over-the counter — to reduce possible side effects and drug interactions. Stay with one pharmacy for all your medication needs. This ensures that the pharmacist knows all the medications you are taking and which medications should not be taken together.
- Have your eyes checked by an eye doctor at least once a year, and make sure the prescription for your glasses is up to date.
- Make sure your home has good lighting.
- Reduce hazards in your home that can cause you to fall. For example, you could trip or slip on:
- Throw rugs that are not tacked down
- Cords, magazines or other objects in walkways
- A bedspread or comforter that hangs down to the floor
- Take your time when walking and moving about.
- Wear shoes with supportive soles and heels that provide good traction.
- Wear house slippers that fit well and don’t fall off your feet.
- Don’t walk in stocking feet.
- When reaching or bending, hold onto a firm support.
- Avoid using furniture to support yourself when you move around a room.
In addition, if you use a device (walker, cane, wheelchair, crutches) to help you get around, was the device prescribed? Have you talked to your physician about you using this? Did you have your device fitted for you?
If You Fall …
First, don’t panic. If you’re able to move, ease yourself up on your elbows. Next, move onto your hands and knees. Hold onto a firm surface to support you. Facing a chair, slowly ease yourself to a standing position. Turn yourself gently and sit on a firm surface. After you get up, take some time to recover from your fall.
If you can’t get up after falling, try to get comfortable with a nearby pillow or cushion to place under your head. If possible, cover yourself with clothing or a tablecloth or rug to keep warm. If you can, shift your position to avoid getting pressure sores, and roll away from a cold, hot or damp area. Call for help. Try to attract attention by shouting or banging something. Use your phone or Lifeline.
Be sure to tell your primary care physician or health care provider that you have had a fall.
For More Information
Froedtert & MCW health network offers a free fall prevention program for community groups and healthcare providers. The program, led by a registered nurse, has been presented in senior centers, senior living residencies and other locations. For more information or to schedule a presentation, call 414-805-3666 or 800-272-3666.