Why do we fall?

By Rosie Moore

One in four Americans aged 65 and over falls each year. Every 11 seconds an older adult is treated in the Emergency Room for a fall; every 19 minutes an older adult dies from a fall.

What startlingly statistics! But, why?

The natural aging process often places older adults at an increased risk of having a fall. Falls are a common and often an overlooked cause of injury in the elderly. There are three main reasons why older people are more likely to have fall. These are: chronic health conditions, such as heart disease, dementia and low blood pressure, which can cause dizziness impairments, such as poor vision or muscle weakness. Illnesses that can affect balance, such as inflammation of the delicate balance regulating parts of the ear.

Chronic health conditions, such as those listed above, can sometimes cause a loss of balance, a brief loss of consciousness or fainting or sudden feeling of dizziness, all of which could all contribute to a fall. Older people may also have weaker muscles and stiffer joints, or may lose some of the feeling in their feet and legs. They’re also slower to react and may have difficulty concentrating on more than one thing as they age.

Among older adults, the most common reasons for accidentally falling or slipping include: wet or recently polished floors, such as in bathrooms, dim light, rugs or carpets that are not properly secured, reaching for storage areas, such as cupboards, and stairs. Another common cause of falls, particularly among older men, is falling from a ladder while carrying out home maintenance work. For people who have osteoporosis (thinning and weakening of the bones), falling can be particularly dangerous as there is more risk of a broken bone.

When I was a youngster, I “flew” everywhere, nothing stopped me, and I very seldom fell. In high school I flew up the stairs and skipped two or three steps at a time, going up or down. Suddenly, after getting married and having children, things began to change. It seemed as if I was always in a hurry; I would stumble over a pebble on the road, stumble going up the stairs, and once I sprained both ankles going out a door. The doctor said it was because I was “top-heavy” (pregnant). Things went back to normal during my middle-age, then, suddenly, I was elderly and it began again. Only falling became little more serious.

So, be careful when walking. Watch out for slippery patches when it’s icy out or when it rains. Keep an eye out for those colorful throw rugs that are here and there in our homes. Sometimes it’s helpful to use a cane. Don’t be afraid to be careful of steps or sloping hills. Going up or down them is quite a chore. Most of all, don’t be afraid to cling to someone’s hand. That is a blessing in disguise.

Thought for the day: Reflect on your present blessings–of which every man has many–not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some. Charles Dickens

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