Nobody ever enjoys falling—it can take you by surprise, cause both immediate and long-lasting pain, and bruise both your body and your ego. However, if you’re young and spry, you can heal relatively quickly from a lot of slip and fall injuries. Elderly people, on the other hand, are more likely to encounter complications and require medical treatment after this kind of accident.
According to the Center for Disease Control, more than 1 in 3 adults 65 and over fall each year, and between 20% and 30% of those people suffer hip fractures, head lacerations, and head trauma. Those injuries can result in costly medical treatment and, if the elderly adult has been living on their own, sometimes makes it difficult for them to continue doing so.
Why Fall Risk Increases as We Age
One of the most obvious reasons that fall injuries become increasingly likely as we age is because we become more susceptible to breaking bones and don’t heal as quickly as younger people. As you get older, your bone density decreases, making your bones more prone to fracturing on impact.
Of course, that’s not the only reason the elderly are more at risk for slip and fall injuries. There are a wide range of risk factors, including:
- Difficulty balancing. There are a number of different balance disorders, such as vertigo and labyrinthitis, which become more common as you age. Dizziness or difficulty maintaining a center of balance can lead elderly people to fall more easily.
- Limited physical activity. Although some elderly people do make a conscious effort to exercise on a regular basis, others become more sedentary as they age. A lack of regular physical activity leads to muscle atrophy, decreased strength, and loss of flexibility—all of which puts people at greater risk for falls.
- Vision problems.If an elderly person has difficulty seeing due to cataracts, glaucoma, or other vision problems, they may have trouble seeing potential tripping or slipping hazards around them.
- Environmental hazards. Sometimes falls are caused by something as seemingly minor as a folded over corner on a rug, an electrical cord on the floor, or an uneven step. If an elderly person falls due to an environmental hazard, the person or organization responsible for keeping that area safe may be liable.
How to Reduce the Risk of Falls for the Elderly
There are steps that both elderly people and their loved ones can take to reduce the odds of experiencing a serious fall. Elderly people can:
- Practice balance exercises for seniors on a regular basis
- Maintain physical activity by walking, taking a water aerobics class, or playing a sport like tennis
- Talk to a doctor if they begin experiencing dizziness, vision problems, or other health issues
- Understand that they may have limits when it comes to certain activities, such as riding an escalator or climbing a ladder, and seek assistance when necessary
Family, friends, and caretakers of seniors can also help by:
- Maintaining homes that are free of tripping hazards: remove clutter from walkways, store electrical cords, and make sure rugs are flush with the floor
- Carefully supervise seniors with dementia when walking in areas with snow or ice, as they may not know to be careful around potential slipping hazards
- Make sure all staircases have sturdy handrails
- Install grab bars on the sides of toilets and bath tubs used by seniors
- Contact a slip and fall lawyer if an elderly loved one falls due to the recklessness or negligence of another person; while a lawyer can’t heal the injury, they can help you recover the compensation you need to cover medical and care expenses
The effort it requires to take a few simple precautions is well worth it in order to protect the people you love from the potentially serious injuries of a slip and fall accident.