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Preventing Falls for the Elderly

According to the CDC, among older adults falls are the leading cause of injury in adults 65 and older and 95% of hip fractures are caused by falls. One in three older adults will experience a fall each year.

A fall is dangerous especially in our elderly patients. It presents a risk for hip and spine fractures, damage to the leg, ankle, upper extremities and hands, head trauma and can even be fatal. When we see patients at the office, there are numerous factors for why they’re prone to falling or have had falls. Some of the most common reasons include:

  • Medications which can drop blood pressure, cause dizziness and make them more prone to falls;
  • Household items such as clutter or too many throw rugs that cause them to trip ;
  • Not using a cane or walker as they’re supposed to;
  • Fearing falling, leading them to limit their activities, have reduced fitness and mobility thus increasing fall risk; 
  • Generalized deconditioning as a result of aging.

One way I try to decrease the risk of falls in my elderly patients is to minimize the amount of pain medicine they take, meaning the less they take the better. Medicines can have side effects regardless of patient age, but are more pronounced in the elderly. By reducing the amount for seniors we also reduce side effects that can put them at risk for falls. One thing they should review with their primary care provider is polypharmacy (use of four or more medications), what medications they’re on, and adjusting those if they’re experiencing dizziness or low blood pressure.

Here are other steps seniors can take on their own to minimize their risk of falls:Have a regular exercise program and stay active, including weight-bearing exercises.

  • Have a regular exercise program and stay active, including weight-bearing exercises.
  • Get rid of clutter and consider adding railings and bars in the home where appropriate.
  • Get vision and osteoporosis screenings regularly.
  • Have open dialogue with medical providers about health. Sometimes the older generation can be hesitant to tell their medical providers what issues they’re experiencing, so we try to educate them as much as possible about risks and about the side effects of medication.
  • If you’re having balance problems talk to your medical provider.

Doug Graudons, PA-C, is a physician assistant with OrthoCarolina Gastonia. He also provides treatment for Belmont Abbey College in Belmont, NC and Highland School of Technology in Gastonia NC. 

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