There’s a story many seniors in America aren’t telling. After a lifetime of work, of raising families, and contributing to history, you may be surprised at what’s in store this year for seniors you know. One in four of them will suffer a fall. For many of them, the fall won’t be serious. But for many more, it will be. The number of American seniors who die from falling accidents has risen sharply.
You may be wondering if the upward trend in falling accidents has something to do with the upward trend in the senior population. After all, we are living somewhat longer, and we are living in the midst of an aging baby boom generation, so with more American seniors there would logically be more falling accidents. But in the same study, the CDC corrected for the population growth in American seniors and found the number of deaths from falling rose a shocking 31% between 2007 and 2016.
“Deaths from unintentional injuries are the seventh leading cause of death among older adults, and falls account for the largest percentage of those deaths,” says the CDC report.
If the trend holds, 30,000 seniors are expected to die as a result of falling this year. Emergency rooms will see 3 million visits for fall-related injuries. And the CDC has named California as one of 30 states that saw a significant rise in mortality rates from falling.
Are we trying to scare you? Maybe a little. But that’s because there is something you can do to reverse this trend. The National Council on Aging urges seniors to do a few, simple things to help make certain they don’t become part of the falling-injury statistics.
A balance and exercise program is key. A licensed physical therapist can be especially effective at decreasing a senior’s risk of falling by recommending a program to help maintain balance, strength and flexibility. Licensed occupational therapists approach the problem of falling with a deep understanding of how seniors interact with their environments, suggesting strategies to make those day-to-day interactions safer. A doctor of osteopathic medicine, naturopathic doctor, medical doctor or adult-gerontology nurse practitioner is also a great resource for assessing the risk that a senior might fall. Evidence suggests a multi-pronged approach to the problem of falling accidents is most effective.
Make certain medications are managed. A senior’s primary care provider can help with this too. Along with a pharmacist, make certain these licensed professionals are reviewing the medications a senior takes and looking for any medication, or combination of medications, that can increase the risk of a fall.
Insist on annual vision and hearing tests. Our eyes and ears are crucial to our balance. So making certain both are in good shape, and corrected when they aren’t, is a good way to reduce the risk of falling. Speak to a licensed eye-care professional or audiologist about your concerns.
Safety starts at home. A senior’s living space should be designed with fall prevention in mind. Identify and remove all tripping hazards. Look for places where grab-bars and additional lighting might be useful, like on stairs and in the bathroom. If those things are missing, a licensed contractor can get them installed, and make certain they’ll work if they’re ever needed.
By taking these few preventative measures, you can help move this trend in the right direction.
 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “Deaths from Falls Among Persons Aged ≥65 – United Sates, 2007-2016” May 11, 2018. Elizabeth Burns and Ramakrishna Kakara. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/67/wr/mm6718a1.htm