Utah seniors, especially the ones in Provo-Orem, are the healthiest seniors in the USA. However, three seniors die every week, not from disease or ailments but accidental slips and falls.
A third of Utahns aged 65 and above will suffer a fall every year. According to the Utah Department of Health, falls are the leading cause of injury-related deaths and hospitalization among Utah seniors, vastly surpassing motor vehicle accidents. Every week, more than 200 seniors get treated in emergency departments around the state. Sixty-three of them will require extended stays at the hospital, and three of them will succumb to their injuries. While accidental falls are not limited to senior residents, close to 80 percent of all fall-related deaths in the state involve individuals over the age of 65.
The Dangers of Falling
Falls get mare dangerous as you get older. Slamming to the ground doesn’t have much of a consequence as a teenager, but it could lead to severe — even life-threatening — injuries as a senior. Your body’s musculature, as well as bone density, deteriorates when you reach your senior years. Doctors from the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS) have highlighted the risks of falling in older patients brought about by muscle weakness, mobility issues (including the use of assistive devices), loss of balance, and slower reflexes due to medication, vision-loss, and memory and cognition issues.
Decreased bone density also exacerbates injuries from falling, including whiplash and hip fractures. Ninety-five percent of hip fractures are attributed to slips and falls. Hip fractures are especially dangerous for seniors — with 1-in-4 seniors succumbing to injuries and complications within six months of suffering the injury. A fall-related injury also increases your chances of suffering another fall within six months by 66 percent. Even without significant injuries, 50 percent of seniors have difficulties getting up or calling for assistance once they’ve fallen to the ground.
The AAOS has released extensive guidelines to reduce the risks of falls among seniors, which include daily exercise, health maintenance, and modifications around the house. Regular exercise maintains your musculature and improves your balance and reflexes, but make sure to check with an orthopedic doctor before starting an extensive regimen. Vitamin D from the sun also increases your body’s ability to absorb calcium, making your bones a little stronger. Problems with your body — especially vision-loss — can increase your risk of falling. Don’t disregard simple aches and pains or sudden bouts of weakness and vertigo. They could be symptoms of an illness/condition or the effects of medication. Changes around the house are essential for senior safety. The majority of all falls occur inside the home, 80 percent of them in the bathroom. Slippery floors and hard surfaces make bathrooms especially dangerous for seniors. Clear the floor of any rugs or mats and install grab bars leading to the toilet. Sitting down and standing up puts a lot of strain on the knees, and a little bit of support can significantly decrease your chances of falling.
Falls are just one of the dangers seniors face as they grow older. Fortunately, falls are preventable, and specific measures can decrease the risk of falling.