16 Mar Reduce Your Fall Risk
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The recent January death of actor and comedian, Bob Saget, was a great shock. Saget, who was 65, died after falling and hitting his head in the bathroom of his hotel room in Orlando, Florida. He had just completed a successful 2-hour comedy. After the show, he posted on Twitter about how much he enjoyed performing, thanking the audience for their support, and promoting future concert dates.
The autopsy results revealed that Saget died from a significant blow to the head causing his skull to fracture in several places. These injuries caused bleeding across both sides of his brain subsequently causing his body to shut down. After reading the autopsy, one physician compared the comedian’s injuries to someone falling 30 feet or being struck in the head by a baseball bat. However, the Orange County Medical Examiner stated that there was no evidence of foul play. It is believed Saget fell in the bathroom of his hotel room, and may have briefly lost consciousness. He woke up and then made his way to his bed.
Fall Statistics and Seniors
Unfortunately what happened to Bob Saget is not unusual–especially among people 65 an older. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
- Falls among adults 65 and older caused 34,000 deaths in 2019, making it the leading cause of death from an injury for group;
- Falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injury;
- More than 95% of hips fractures are caused by falls;
- At least 300,000 older people are hospitalized for hip fractures;
- Over 800,000 patients a year are hospitalized because of a fall injury, most often due to a head injury or hip fracture;
- Some medications seniors take, especially blood thinners, can increase bleeding in the brain after a head fall. In addition, others may cause confusion increasing fall risk.
- In 2015, the total medical costs for falls totaled 50 billion. Medicare and Medicaid covered 75% of these costs.
Fall Prevention Tips
We receive many phone calls to our office after a senior has fallen and has sustained a serious injury. Older folks are often not able to recover completely after a fall, (especially if they have a head injury or hip fracture), and they need to move into some type of assisted living facility. Falls are one of the main reason older adults are no longer able to remain independent and continue to live in their own homes.
The good news is that there are a number of proven steps older adults can initiate to prevent a fall:
- Don’t change clothes in the bathroom where there are a lot of corners and hard surfaces such as tile floors, tubs, sinks and toilets. It is safer to change in a carpeted area of your home while sitting down on a chair or bed.
- In general, the bathroom is the most dangerous room in the home for a fall. Install grab bars in the shower and near the toilet. Grab bars with secure suction cups are available on Amazon which are easy to use and install.
- Use only one non-slip mat outside the tub/shower.
- Engage in exercises which increase leg strength and balance such as Tai Chi or Pilates.
- Do not climb on a ladder. Hire a handyman for jobs around your home.
- Clean up all clutter in the home which can pose a trip hazard.
- Make a clear path in your home for highly used traffic areas.
- Wear non-slip shoes both inside and outside the home. Do not wear slippers.
- Avoid wearing loose clothing.
- If possible, live on one-level. If stairs are unavoidable, install handrails on both sides of a staircase which extend beyond the top and bottom of the stairs. Make sure the stairway is well lit.
- Never rush to answer the phone or door. Carry a portable phone or cell phone from room to room.
- Eliminate trip hazards in the home including small throw/area rugs; electrical cords or furniture that you constantly bump.
- Use proper lighting including brighter bulbs during the day and lights at night when waking up to use the bathroom.
- Be careful around pets and their leashes
- Talk to you physician and ask for a fall risk assessment
- Review medications with physician or pharmacist to determine if they may be causing dizziness.
- Have an annual eye exam
After a Head Fall
- If you fall on your head call 911 or have someone take you to the nearest emergency room if you experience any of the following symptoms: headache, confusion, repeated vomiting, difficulty with vision; unequal pupil sizes, and drowsiness. Do not drive yourself.
- Do not stay alone for 24 hours after falling on your head.
- It’s always a good idea to call your physician after a falling on your head, even if you believe it’s a minor injury.
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