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Skip the trip: Don’t let a fall send you to the emergency department

March 14, 2016

Falls are the leading cause of injury-related emergency department visits for Ohioans ages 65 and older, and they account for more ED patients than all other injuries combined. Shockingly, seven ED visits per hour in Ohio are from older adults who have taken a tumble.

Each year, 2.5 million older adults nationally are treated in EDs for fall injuries, and of those, 20-25% die within one year. More than 95% of hip fractures and most traumatic brain injuries are caused by falling.

In 2014 nearly 5,000 patients were seen in Montgomery County emergency departments for fall-related injuries, and the county has the second-highest number of fall-related deaths in the state. Age-related changes – both physical and mental – can contribute to an increased risk of injury.

Ohio’s 65-and-over population is projected to increase by 100 people per day for the next 14 years. In turn, the number of people falling, and the cost associated with those injuries, will rise if precautions aren’t taken to prevent these accidents.

What you can do

The vast majority of tumbles occur in a person’s home, so that is the logical place to begin working toward fall prevention. Here are 10 easy ways to lessen your chances of taking a spill –

  1. Do strength and balance exercises. This can be a class like tai chi or yoga or walking in a well-lit area inside or outside. Even doing simple leg and arm exercises in your living room can help build muscle and strength and can improve balance.
  2. Have your eyes checked by an eye doctor at least once a year, and be sure to update your glasses, if needed. 
  3. Have your hearing and balance checked.
  4. Talk with your doctor about having a fall risk assessment done and possibly about taking vitamin D. Review medications that could have side effects that increase your risk of losing your balance, such as dizziness or sleepiness.
  5. Make your home safer by adding grab bars inside and outside your tub or shower and next to the toilet. Put railings on both sides of the stairs.
  6. Make sure your home has lots of light by adding more or brighter light bulbs
  7. Don’t try to step over pets - make them move.
  8. Wear properly fitted shoes with good traction.
  9. Get rid of throw rugs or tape them down securely.
  10. Make sure cords are not in high-traffic areas of your home, to prevent tripping over them.

You should do everything you can to prevent a fall, but if you’re injured, don’t hesitate to visit a Kettering Health Network emergency department. Click here to find our ED closest to you.