September may be National Falls Prevention Month, but that doesn’t mean we can’t focus on safety for the rest of the year. In fact, the chillier months signal a need for increased awareness surrounding slip-and-fall accidents, as ice and snow can often increase these physical risks. And of course, since older individuals are more prone to falls — and will often suffer greater consequences as a result of them — it’s a good idea for seniors to prepare as much as possible in order to prevent these accidents from ever occurring.
While a simple fall might not seem like a big deal, the injuries that can occur as a result can have drastic consequences on people of any age. Over 20,000 workplace slip-and-fall injuries were reported to OSHA in 2015 pertaining to incidents in California — which means there were countless others that occurred elsewhere throughout the United States. And, of course, the workplace isn’t the only location where accidents like these happen. Among elderly Americans, slip-and-fall accidents account for more than 3 million emergency department visits each year, with 25% of seniors experiencing falls on an annual basis.
Given the fact that the American senior population continues to expand at impressive rates, this problem will only continue to increase among this demographic. As a result, the National Council on Aging has sponsored National Falls Awareness Day, which takes place each year on September 23 — which was the first day of fall this year, appropriately enough. Many local programs offer corresponding events to assist in making awareness efforts more widespread, including the provision of fall prevention information and services that can allow seniors to review medications, check assistive devices, or partake in demonstrations. But considering that falls are the leading cause of injury-related fatalities for people aged 65 and up, as well as the root cause of 40% of all nursing home admissions, fall prevention needs to be a year-round effort.
The majority of falls are actually preventable, but the onus is on seniors, caregivers, and community members to take action. Risk assessments through the YMCA are available online for seniors who want to find out how their daily activities may increase their likelihood of falls, for example. Once this information is understood, seniors can then take action to reduce their risk. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, seniors should pursue exercise programs to help them improve balance and leg strength, review medications with their physicians, go to the eye doctor regularly to update prescriptions, and remove hazards or add assistive features to their homes.
Contrary to popular belief, falling isn’t a “normal” part of aging. In fact, it can be what prevents many individuals from leading longer and healthier lives. Taking preventative steps to alleviate the risk of slip-and-fall accidents, particularly among older individuals, is key to maintaining quality of life.