Don’t Ignore Deadly Slips, Trips and Falls

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arbors-falls.jpgHas your parent fallen recently?

Are you sure?

One out of 3 people over the age of 65 falls each year. After 80 years of age, 50% fall annually.

Less than half report their fall to their doctor. There are no statistics on whether they tell their children or other loved ones. The problem is exacerbated in people with memory problems or dementia, because they may not remember or be able to report a fall.

Dangers of Slips, Trips,and Falls

Here’s why you should be concerned about slips, trips and falls:

  • Falling once doubles their chances of falling again.
  • Injury from a fall is 3 times more likely to lead to death than in younger populations.
  • Falling is more likely to limit an older adult’s activities of daily living (ADLs), such as bathing, eating, dressing and walking.
  • Falling is associated with a senior feeling sad or depressed.
  • People who fall once frequently become afraid of falling again and, as a result, limit their activities.
  • Falls may cause undiagnosed injuries that may threaten their lives. Low-impact falls can cause hip, back, wrist, arm, leg, and other fractures and head trauma that may not be reported.

Low-impact Falls Are Deadly

Even minor slips, trips, and falls can lead to major trauma in older adults.

“There is the potential to minimize what people see as a relatively trivial issue, such as slipping and falling on a wet tile floor. Our research shows that falls from low levels shouldn’t be underestimated in terms of how bad they can be, especially in older patients,” says Julius Cheng, a trauma surgeon and associate professor in the Department of Surgery at the University of Rochester Medical Center.

How Can You Tell if Your Parent Has Fallen?

If your parent doesn’t remember slipping or doesn’t favor an injured area, it’s difficult to determine if your parent has fallen. Some signs that may indicate a fall are:

  • New bruises your parent can’t explain
  • A new fear. If your parent is afraid of going upstairs, downstairs or outside, the reason may be that they have fallen and are afraid of falling again.
  • Unexplained sadness or depression. As noted above, falls can cause sadness and depression.
  • Lack of hygiene. If your parent appears untidy, they may have fallen in the bath and are afraid of doing so again.
  • Uncharacteristic behavior. Head trauma may cause uncharacteristic behavior. Since this is a symptom of many problems, you should inform your parent’s physician.

Risk Factors for Falls

The Centers for Disease Control have identified the following as risk factors for falls:

  • Lower body weakness
  • Vitamin D deficiency
  • Difficulties with walking and balance
  • Use of medicines, most commonly tranquilizers, sedatives, or antidepressants, but also over-the-counter medications, such as cold medicine
  • Vision problems
  • Foot pain or poor footwear
  • Home hazards or dangers, such as broken or uneven steps, bad lighting, throw rugs or clutter, and no handrails along stairs or in the bathroom.

Click here for fall prevention tips.

What Do I Do if I Think My Parent Has Fallen?

If your parent is showing no overt symptoms, make an appointment with their doctor to discuss your concerns.

If your parent is showing extreme confusion, dizziness, unusual loss of balance, unusual emotions (crying jag or extreme rage) or fainting, get them care immediately.

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