Incidents of potentially serious falls increase with age but risk factors can be reduced, including through modifications to the home and closer attention to the potential side effects of medication, according to the Senate Select Committee on Aging.
A report says that falls “are the leading cause of injury and injury-related deaths among adults aged 65 and older. Every 11 seconds an older adult is treated in the emergency room for a fall. Every 19 minutes an older adult dies because of a fall. As alarming as these numbers are, they may underrepresent the prevalence because almost half of older adults who fall do not report it to their doctor.”
The risk increases with age due to factors such as reduced muscle strength, deterioration of vision, osteoporosis, arthritis, dementia and Vitamin D deficiency. However, it notes that a less commonly examined cause involves adverse reaction to prescription drugs which alone or in combination might have effects such as vision disturbances, low blood pressure, dizziness, confusion and sleepiness. Four out of five older adults take at least one prescription medication, and more than half take five or more prescription medications, over-the-counter medications, or dietary supplements per day, it says.
“Health care providers have a role to play in ensuring that an individual’s prescriptions, including the interaction of those prescriptions, do not result in an adverse health event, like a fall. This requires providers to regularly engage patients in a review of prescribed medications,” it says, urging more attention to the full range of medications a person takes.
It also recommends getting a home safety evaluation to determine whether modifications are in order; such evaluations are available through some community-based aging services as well as in some cases through Medicare. “These evaluations and modifications, paired with supportive services, can help an individual remain in their home and active in the community,” it says.
See also, Federal Disability Annuity at ask.FEDweek.com
Other steps range from educational programs–particularly on discharge from a hospital–to exercises that improve balance and build strength.