We all want to protect our older family members and help them stay safe, secure, and independent. Knowing how to reduce the risk of falling, a leading cause of injury, is a step toward this goal.
Each year, one in every three adults ages 65 or older falls and 2 million are treated in emergency departments for fall-related injuries. And the risk of falling increases with each decade of life. The long-term consequences of fall injuries, such as hip fractures and traumatic brain injuries (TBI), can impact the health and independence of older adults. Thankfully, falls are not an inevitable part of aging. In fact, many falls can be prevented. Everyone can take actions to protect the older adults they care about.
You can play a role in preventing falls. Encourage the older adults in your life to:
- Get some exercise. Lack of exercise can lead to weak legs and this increases the chances of falling. Exercise programs such as Tai Chi can increase strength and improve balance, making falls much less likely.
Be mindful of medications. Some medicines—or combinations of medicines—can have side effects such as dizziness or drowsiness. This can make falling more likely. Having a doctor or pharmacist review all medications can help reduce the chance of risky side effects and drug interactions.
- Keep their vision sharp. Poor vision can make it harder to get around safely. Older adults should have their eyes checked every year and wear glasses or contact lenses with the right prescription strength to ensure they are seeing clearly.
- Eliminate hazards at home. About half of all falls happen at home. A home safety check can help identify potential fall hazards that need to be removed or changed, such as tripping hazards, clutter, and poor lighting.
Steps for Home Safety
The following checklist can help older adults reduce their risk of falling at home:
- Remove things you can trip over (such as papers, books, clothes, and shoes) from stairs and places where you walk.
- Install handrails and lights on all staircases.
- Remove small throw rugs or use double-sided tape to keep the rugs from slipping.
- Keep items you use often in cabinets you can reach easily without using a step stool.
- Put grab bars inside and next to the tub or shower and next to your toilet.
- Use non-slip mats in the bathtub and on shower floors.
- Improve the lighting in your home. As you get older, you need brighter lights to see well. Hang lightweight curtains or shades to reduce glare.
- Wear shoes both inside and outside the house. Avoid going barefoot or wearing slippers.
CDC offers various materials and resources for all audiences about older adult falls and what can be done to prevent them. These resources are for the general public, public health officials, and anyone interested in programs that aim to prevent falls.
- Brochures and Posters (in English, Spanish, and Chinese)
- Fact Sheets:
- Preventing Falls: What Works―A CDC Compendium of Effective Community-based Interventions from Around the World
- Preventing Falls: How to Develop Community-based Fall Prevention Programs for Older Adults
- Preventing Falls: Information for Healthcare Providers
25th Year of Precepting
This marks my 25th year of serving as a community preceptor for medical students at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. My thanks to those patients who have taken time to meet with students. Here is a comment from one of them:
The past 4 weeks with Dr. Thornton was probably one of my favorite rotations of 3rd year. There is an ample amount of diversity in the types of medical problems seen from routine follow ups to vaccinations needed for world travel as well as more chronic conditions. Dr. Thornton’s attentiveness and laid back personality make him a great instructor. He often provided me with articles he found interesting and we had many conversations about medicine and life in general. He really made me feel like I was part of the treatment team. His staff is extremely nice and personable. I feel very fortunate to have had this rotation.