If you had to take a guess, what would you say is the leading cause of traumatic injuries annually? Maybe car crashes? Or what about violent crime?
At Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital, it is actually preventable falls. Like many Level 1 Trauma Centers across the nation, preventable falls accounted for a majority of trauma admissions in 2015, surpassing the previous leading cause, motor vehicle and motorcycle accidents.
This is due, in a large part, to an aging population. As the population grows older, health conditions, physical changes and even medications can increase the risk of falling.
Sarah Dinwiddie, R.N., Carilion Clinic's trauma outreach coordinator, reports that the population most affected by falls is the elderly, ages 65 years or older.
“We see a lot of elderly patients come in due to ground level falls,” said Dinwiddie. “They are just doing something like walking across the house to get to the bathroom and they fall.”
One in three elderly adults fall each year and 60 percent of these falls occur in private homes. As most falls are preventable, there are a couple of easy safety tips and precautions Dinwiddie recommends.
The number one way to prevent falls is to stay in motion. Exercise and movement can help prevent falling by improving motor skills, core strength and balance. Walking and gentle exercises help build and maintain strength and coordination. All of these can help you keep you independent and at home.
“Research is telling us exercise is the best method of fall prevention,” said Dinwiddie. “Walk in circles at your house or outside; even simple chair raises can keep someone strong and healthy.”
Carilion Wellness offers free classes for seniors to improve strength and flexibility and to help keep seniors active. Talk with your doctor to see what types of exercise and movement are right for you.
Keep paths clear to frequently used rooms in your house, such as the bathroom and bedroom. Clear clutter from the floors and be cautious of trip hazards such as animals or children. Remove throw rugs as they can increase your risk of falling and keep items in easy to reach places. Wear comfortable shoes with good soles, avoiding big slippers and shoes with slick soles.
Check Your Vision
Be sure that you are getting regular eye exams to help improve you vision. If you have glasses, remember to wear them to help better spot any fall hazards. Turn the lights on and avoid walking in the dark. You may also want to install night lights in hallways and bathrooms as an extra precaution.
Remaining independent can be a concern for an aging population, but being safe by preventing avoidable falls is an easy step to help ease the anxiety.
“Slow down, de-clutter your house, exercise and take care of yourself," said Dinwiddie. "These are crucial steps to help you or your loved ones stay home and stay independent.”