Recently during my appointment at the Veterans Clinic, I was asked if I had fallen in the past year. I had to think about that before answering that I had not. Still, I have fallen in the past and it is easier to fall and the landing is harder than it use to be. Getting up is also a greater challenge.
The Veterans Administration is making an effort to educate the veterans and making an effort to prevent falls. Their goal is to help veterans to prevent falls at home. It is understandable that they make an effort in prevention of falls. With the baby boomers beginning to become what is normally called senior citizens, there will be a greater number in this older age group. Falls can certainly increase the cost of administrating health care. Falls can also reduce the quality of life.
The clinic is handing out a brochure to the patients about falls in the home, giving several suggestions on reducing falls. Many of them are common sense suggestions, yet many people often neglect the good safety practices.
While my answer was that I hadn't fallen in the past year, it does not include the numerous times that I might have caught myself. It may be not if but when I fall. That fall almost came this week when I stumbled over an empty cardboard box and would have gone down, if I had not caught myself.
Being over 65 years old is among the many things that are known to add to the risk of falling. The leading cause of accidental deaths according to a government report is falls. In 2003 there were nearly 14,000 fall-related injuries that resulted in death. Fatal falls are rising among the age 65 and older group.
One of the things that happen to my mother is that she fell and had a bad head injury. She fell other times, but that time she apparently fell over the cord of her vacuum cleaner. It was either that time or another time when she got out of the hospital, she had home health care. She had a number of throw rugs on her carpet and the first thing the health care workers did was rolled up her throw rugs and put them to aside and told her not to use them. When she told me about this, she was not happy that they told her not to use the throw rugs. One person said that the reason they get their name as throw rugs, because that is what they do -- throw you.
One of my relatives recently fell as result of a throw rug and injured her shoulder. This is after her husband and daughter had talked with her the evening before that they needed to get rid of the throw rugs. When they went to the doctor, one of her classmates and their neighbor was there with his wife, who had been injured as result of a throw rug fall.
My mother suffered a severe head injury when she fell and was fortunate that it was not fatal. Many accidents from falls in the home do result in death. I have learned that one person I knew died as result of a head injury from a fall. There were not any indications that he had fallen over anything. Perhaps, some falls can not be helped.
Suggestions include having your doctor or pharmacist review your medication, including your over-the-counter medications. It is also advised to get up slowly from sitting or lying down.
One veteran said that he fell during the past year and he fell hard. He was going down the steps without a light. He thought he was at the bottom of the steps and he had one more step. He now uses a light on his steps, which everyone need to do. Overhead lights needs to be place at the top and bottom of steps. A night light is also advised in your bedroom and to have a flashlight available in case the electricity goes off.
Among the things listed in the VA to prevent falls is to replace burned out or glaring lights with bright soft white light bulbs. Make sure lights are easy to turn on and off.
On steps all obstacles need to be removed. Hand railing is also important.
I remember when my mother and I were somewhere and we were taking the steps. She commented that she needed to use the handrail. At that time, I did not need the handrail. That has changed. I now need to hold on to handrails when I am taking the steps.
One of the things that we do not think about is to have telephones located where they can be reached in case of a fall. One lady I knew fell in her bedroom and broke her hip. She could not reach the phone in her bedroom and she was able to pull herself to the other end of the house to reach a phone to call her daughter.
There are other suggestions listed in the brochure to prevent falls and there are other sources of information regarding the prevention of falls. G H 7060 "Bathroom Safety for Older People" is a guide sheet available from the University of Missouri Extension. There are a number of things that can be done in the bathrooms leading to safety bathrooms. One of these is to use a raised toilet seat and safety frame for ease in getting up and down from toilet.
While people over 65 are more prone to falling and being injured by falls, everyone needs to be conscious of the need to maintaining efforts to prevent falls.