Health & Wellness

Get a Handle on Tumbles

It could impact your long-term quality of life.

The numbers don’t lie: Adults age 65 and over are tending to fall more than ever, according to a study published last year (2015) by the University of Michigan Health System.

SOF16049_Blog_600x_oFalls are already the most frequent cause of injury among older adults – about a third in this age group experience a tumble annually. But U-M researchers have also found that accidental spills are on the rise. The study analyzed data over a 12-year period starting in 1998 for a large group of senior adults and found the rate of falls increased by almost 30 percent.

The is concerning due to aging populations worldwide and the fact that falls carry such a heavy quality-of-life impact. According to the National Council on Aging, every 11 seconds an older person is treated in the emergency room for a fall. The situation has led to increased discussion and the creation of falls prevention programs across the country.

In particular, studies suggest that some routinely prescribed drugs for older adults are contributing to the problem. An article in Therapeutic Advances in Drug Safety noted that certain classes of drugs appear to be increasing the risk of falls, with antidepressants being the greatest offender. While steps to prevent falls in the first place should be taken, efforts to optimize an older patient’s condition and medication use are also key factors in preventing injuries due to falls.

If you’re age 60 or older, talk with your SoFHA physician about creating a personal falls-prevention plan. Everyone is unique with different factors and conditions to consider. When meeting with your physician, make sure you discuss the following related to medications and other fall risk factors.

  • Discuss all medications you take. Tell your SoFHA physician about all prescription and over-the-counter medications and supplements you take. He or she may consider weaning you off certain drugs – such as sedatives and some types of antidepressants – as part of your personal falls-prevention plan.
  • Share your history of falling. Document and share specific details surrounding any falls you’ve had. Include times when you almost fell but someone caught you, or you diverted the fall by grabbing hold of something. Such details will help your physician identify specific falls-prevention strategies.
  • Talk about health conditions that could lead to falls. Certain eye and ear disorders may increase your risk of falls. Discuss your health conditions and how comfortable you are when walking. Do you have dizziness or experience joint pain, numbness or shortness of breath when moving around? Your doctor may evaluate your muscle strength, balance and walking style as well.

To learn quick tips for avoiding serious tumbles, read “6 Steps to Prevent a Fall” posted by the National Council on Aging.

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