The National Council on Aging (NCOA) published an article outlining some of the common myths related to falls.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- One out of three older adults, aged 65 or older, falls each year but less than half talk to their healthcare providers
- Falls are the leading cause of both fatal and nonfatal injuries among older adults
- In 2010, 2.3 million nonfatal fall injuries among older adults were treated in emergency departments and more than 662,000 of these patients were hospitalized
- 20% -30% of people who fall suffer moderate to severe injuries and that can make it difficult to live independently. It also increases the risk of early death
- Falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries
- Most fractures among older adults are caused by falls
Many older adults who fall but are not injured develop the fear of falling. This fear causes them to limit their activities which lead to reduced mobility and loss of physical fitness and this in turn increases their actual risk of falling.
To promote greater awareness and understanding, let’s discuss the 10 myths associated with older adult falls.
Myth 1: Falling happens to other people, not to me
Many people think that falls will not happen to them. However, in reality 1 in 3 older adults, about 12 million fall in the US every year. Falls can happen to anyone, at any time and seniors are even more prone to it.
Myth 2: Falling is a normal part of getting older
People associate falls as a part of aging. But they are not. Most falls can be prevented by exercising, managing the medications, having vision checked and making the living environment safer.
Myth 3: Limiting activity reduces the risk fall
People feel that in order to prevent falls, it is best to stay home and limit their activities. This is not true; in fact, performing physical activities improves strength and one stays independent. Social activities are beneficial for emotional health of a person.
Myth 4: Staying at home limits the risk of falls
Falls can happen anywhere, but statistics have shown that over half of all falls take place at home. It is therefore very important to properly inspect your home for all potential fall risks. Clutter, throw rugs and poor lighting are such risk which can cause serious injuries. It is important to fix such simple yet serious hazards. If need be, simple home modifications should also be undertaken. For example, adding grab bars in bathrooms, a second handrail on stairs, non-slip paint on the steps, etc. So staying at home may not limit falls but can lead to a senior become isolated and lonely.
Myth 5: It is not possible to regain muscle strength and flexibility
People think that as we age, we lose muscle and this is an irreversible process. The truth is that it is never too late to start an exercise program. Even if, one has been inactive throughout one’s life, becoming active even at an older age has various benefits including protection from falls.
Myth 6: Taking medications does not increase the risk of falling
Even though medications are important for treatment of various health problems, they may also increase the risk of falling. Medications have side effects such as causing dizziness or feeling sleepy. Seniors have to be particularly careful when starting any new medications and should talk to their health care provider about the potential side effects or interactions of the drugs prescribed to them.
Myth 7: There is no need for an annual vision check up
Vision is a very important risk factor for falls. Aging causes vision loss that increases the risk of falling and injury. People with vision problems are more than twice as likely to fall as compared to those without visual impairment. This makes an annual eye check-up an absolute must. If need be, eyeglasses must be updated. There are programs and assistive devices for people with low vision.
Myth 8: Using walking aids increases the dependence on them
A walker or cane can be very helpful for maintaining and improving mobility in older adults. But it is very important to use these devices safely. A physical therapist can fit the walker or cane to you and instruct you about their safe use.
Myth 9: I don’t need to talk to family members or my health care provider regarding my risk of falling.
Seniors feel that by telling family members about their risk of falling will alarm them. But what they need to understand is that fall prevention is a team effort. It should be discussed with the doctor, family and anyone who is in a position to help. Together, they can help maintain their mobility and reduce their risk of falling.
Myth 10: I shouldn't talk to an older loved one about these risks, it may hurt their feelings.
The fact is you can help your loved one avoid serious injury by having an open discussion about your concerns and putting a safety plan in place and help them maintain the highest degree of independence possible.