Falls are the second leading cause of unintentional death in homes and communities, according to the National Safety Council, leading to more than 25,000 fatalities in 2009. Older people are at greater risk for serious injury or even death after a fall; 80 percent of all people who die from falls were over the age of 65. While not all falls are preventable, taking some safety measures within the home decreases the risk for falling and reduces the severity of injuries when falls do happen.
Who is at Risk?
Anyone can fall at home but the risk increases with age. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that one in three people over the age of 65 fall each year. Of those who fall, 20 to 30 percent will suffer serious injuries that impair their ability to get around or live by themselves. Older adults find themselves hospitalized five times more often from injuries resulting from falls than from injuries sustained from other causes.
Falls greatly increase the risk for early death. In fact, the number of fall deaths among people aged 65 and older are four times the number of fall deaths in all other age groups.
Falls among older people cost U.S. health care system $30 billion in direct medical expenses in 2010. These costs are what patients and insurance companies pay for hospital rooms, nursing home care, doctors, medical equipment, medications, and changes made to the home. These costs do not include payments for the long-term effects of falls, such as disability, dependence on others, time away from work, and decreased quality of life.
Where Falls are Likely to Happen
Falls can happen anywhere but the most common locations for slip-and-fall accidents are:
- Cluttered hallways
- Heavy traffic areas
- Uneven surfaces
- Kitchens, bathrooms, and other areas prone to wetness or spills
- Heights unprotected by guardrails, etc.
- Unstable work surfaces
The best way to decrease severe injuries from falls is to prevent them from happening in the first place. Reduce tripping hazards by securing electrical and phone cords out of traffic areas and removing boxes, clothes, shoes, and other items from stairs and hallways. Repair damage to walkways and stairs immediately. Prevent slips by cleaning up all spills immediately; remove small throw rugs completely or replace them with non-skid mats. Never stand on a chair, table, or other surface not intended for that purpose – always use a ladder. Install and use a medic alert system to call for help in case something does cause a fall.