Slips and Falls
It wasn’t that long ago that the catch phrase “I’ve fallen and I
can’t get up” was popular among a lot of comedians. To members of
the youngest generations, the idea seemed . . . silly.
Children fall all the time. Yes, they may cry a bit, they may
get a skinned knee, but they bounce right back.
Younger adults fall, too. Riding on a bike or pair of roller
blades. Hiking along a trail. They may not bounce right back but,
properly equipped with a helmet and other safety items, they suffer
no long-term effects. A bruise maybe. A sore muscle. Or, at worst, a
cast for a month or so.
It’s members of the middle and senior generations who were
least likely to find the “I’ve fallen” line amusing. They’re the
ones most likely to realize how devastating a fall can be for an
elderly family member.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) knows
that, too. In its “Falls Among Older Adults: An Overview,” the CDC
--More than one third of adults 65 and older fall each year in
the United States.
--Among older adults, falls are the leading cause of injury
deaths. They’re also the most common cause of nonfatal injuries and
hospital admissions for trauma.
--In 2005, 15,800 people 65 and older died from injuries
related to unintentional falls; about 1.8 million people 65 and
older were treated in emergency departments for nonfatal injuries
from falls, and more than 433,000 of these patients were
--Twenty to 30 percent of people who fall suffer moderate to
severe injuries such as bruises or head traumas. These injuries can
make it hard to get around and limit independent living. They also
can increase the risk of early death.
--Many people who fall, even those who aren’t injured, develop
a fear of falling. This fear may cause them to limit their
activities, leading to reduced mobility and physical fitness, and
increasing their actual risk of falling.
Needless to say, prevention is the key to avoiding falls. The
CDC advises that older adults can take several steps to protect
their independence and reduce their risk of falling, including:
--Exercising regularly. (Exercise programs like tai chi
that increase strength and improve balance are especially good.)
--Asking their doctor or pharmacist to review their medicines
-- both prescription and over-the counter -- to reduce side effects
--Having their eyes checked by an eye doctor at least once a
--Improving the lighting in their home.
--Reducing the hazards in their home that can lead to falls.
(Such as safely tucking telephone and electrical cords out of
walkways. Keeping the floor clear and clean. Using non-skid throw
rugs to reduce the chance of slipping on linoleum or vinyl. And
installing handrails in stairways and grab bars in the bathroom by
the toilet and in the tub or shower.)
The bottom line here? The bad news is falls can be devastating.
The good news is there are easy ways to help a loved one avoid
becoming the victim of a simple slip that could land them in so much
Home Safety Checklist for Caregivers
Return to Topics