Two Emergency Department physicians at Massachusetts General Hospital have created a new video designed to give people who have fallen in the past — especially the more vulnerable older adult population — easy steps to avoid falls in the future.
About a third of people who are 65 years of age and older will be involved in a fall this year that can diminish their quality of life. That number increases the older a person gets. More than half of the falls among older adults occur in the home.
Unintentional falls are the leading cause of injury-related death and non-fatal injuries among Massachusetts residents age 65 and older. Falls are the number one cause for admission at the Mass General Trauma Center. Injuries from falls range from bruises to broken hips and brain injuries.
If you or a family member are age 65 or older, there are many things that you can do to prevent falls for yourself and your loved ones.
The video was created by Shan Liu, MD, and Kathleen Davenport, MD, Mass General physicians, as part of a grant from the American College of Emergency Physicians. It is called the “7 Step Fall Challenge.” By following these steps, as listed below, you can greatly decrease your risk of falling, especially repeat falling.
Shan Liu, MD
Steps for Fall Prevention
Step 1: Strength and Balance
Focus on improving strength and balance by exercising regularly. Several options include Tai chi, yoga and other exercises that improve flexibility and endurance.
Step 2: Home Safety
More than half of falls occur in homes. Remove trip hazards, like boxes and furniture, from heavy traffic areas. Create a wide pathway between rooms.
Make sure loose carpets and rugs are secure and that cords are taped down or removed. Never stand on chairs or stools to reach for items. Install safety rails in bathrooms and night lights in hallways, bedrooms and bathrooms.
Step 3: Medication
Many medications can make you feel lightheaded, dizzy or sleepy, which can increase your risk of falling. If you have these side effects from certain medications, work with your doctor or pharmacist to find other options that might be available.
Kathleen Davenport, MD
Step 4: Vision
As we age, our vision changes. It may become more difficult to see things. Get your eyes checked every year.
Step 5: Dehydration
Dehydration can lead to dizziness and confusion. Often, we don’t drink as much water as we need. Unless you are told otherwise by a doctor, try to drink 6-8 glasses of water a day.
Step 6: Feet and Footwear
Supportive footwear is extremely important for preventing falls. Poor-fitting shoes, clogs, flip-flops and heels will increase your risk of falling.
Always wear supportive and comfortable shoes while walking. Talk to your doctor about seeing a podiatrist, or foot doctor, especially if you have decreased feeling in your feet from diabetes or other medical conditions.
Step 7: What to Do If You Fall
If you start to fall, try to relax your body to reduce the impact. Tuck your chin to protect your head and roll as you land to spread out the force of the fall. Stay calm and do not try to get up too quickly.
Always keep a mobile or cordless phone with emergency numbers within easy reach. If you’ve fallen before, talk to your doctor about getting a fall alert system. This is a bracelet or necklace that will alert local emergency medical services, or EMS, if you fall.
Once a person has fallen once, his or her risk of falling again is twice as high. For more information, please watch the 7 Step Fall Challenge video and share it with those you believe are at risk of falling.