A few tips to help seniors prevent dangerous falls

When you work in the field of premises liability, you see the real-world effects of slip, trip and fall accidents. Although these incidents are often minimized in the media, they can cause serious injuries, especially among the elderly. People over 65 tend to fall more often, and they tend to be more seriously injured when they do fall.

A recent study published by the JAMA Network found that, in 2016, over 25,000 American adults 75 or older died from falls. That was up from a little over 8,600 such deaths in 2000. The study concluded that the rate of fatal falls among that age group had more or less doubled. And, a third of older adults who fall suffer an injury.

Don’t be sedentary just to avoid falling

NPR interviewed Dr. Elizabeth Eckstrom, a professor and chief of geriatrics at Oregon Health & Science University about falls among older adults. The first thing she said was that being active does put people at risk of falling — but that’s not a good reason to be sedentary.

A lot of people get scared after a bad fall and begin avoiding activities they think might put them at risk of falls. Doing so can cause you to lose mobility and get weaker, which can make recovering from a fall more difficult.

Be aware of your medications’ side effects

Eckstrom also pointed out that the increased use of pain pills and some other medications may be increasing people’s risk of falls. Pain pills, sleeping pills and other drugs can cause people to feel dizzy, drowsy or confused.

Similarly, blood pressure medicine can be problematic. When people take too high of a dose, it can cause dizziness, as well.

And, a class of drugs called anticholinergics, which includes some cold medications (like Sudafed PE) and bladder control drugs (like Detrol), can increase your risk of falling.

Other things to consider

When doctors try to help older people avoid falls, they often look at three other issues:

  • Are your glasses the right prescription?
  • Are you wearing safe shoes?
  • If you need a cane or walker, are you using it?

An integrated approach, including exercise, can be effective

According to Eckstrom, reducing the risk of falls requires looking at all of these issues together and setting up a plan. It’s crucial to exercise, even though you might fall when exercising. Walking is good, but also consider an exercise option that focuses on balance. For example, tai chi increases your postural stability over time, which allows you to catch yourself when you begin to fall.

If you are injured in a fall, don’t assume it was your fault. Have your situation evaluated by an experienced attorney.