Hand holding walker wearing bracelet that says

Preventing the most dangerous injuries

When getting out of bed you can almost feel the energy of the season: The chatter of college football, cooler weather and pumpkin spice. Fall is here!

The first day of the fall season — September 22 — also marks Falls Prevention Day. Many people don’t realize that falls are a serious problem — especially for older adults.

In 2016 alone, Spartanburg Medical Center’s Level I Trauma Center treated 984 individuals for fall-related injuries. Falls accounted for 51 percent of our total trauma injuries.

More patients were treated for falls than for violence and motor vehicle accidents combined.

Those at highest risk for falls are the very young (under age 4) and older adults (over 65 years old). Falls are the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries for people over 65.

People fall for numerous reasons, and many times falls are related to accumulated risk factors. The more risk factors you have, the greater your risk of falling.

For children, the highest risk factors are muscular weakness or development, and not being aware of your safety. In older adults, the top risk factors include muscular weakness, decreased safety awareness, medication usage, decreased balance, gait, and difficulties with hearing, vision and sensation of touch.

What happens when we fall?

When we fall, our injuries depend on what we hit, where we hit, the height of the fall, the force leading up to impact, and our body’s particular makeup and history. Falls from standing can lead to:

  • Traumatic brain injuries.
  • Hip fractures.
  • Cervical spine (neck) injuries.
  • Rhabdomyolysis (muscle breakdown), which can lead to acute kidney failure.

There is good news is falls are preventable! Falls are not a natural part of aging. As we age we may need to slow down, but we do not need to fall down.

Prevent falls by following these steps:

  1. During your yearly physical with your health care provider, review your medication list and common side effects. You may even find some medications that are no longer necessary. 
  2. Review your health conditions with your health care provider and ask if any of these increase your risks of falling.
  3. Have your hearing and vision checked yearly. Due to their gradual changes, your medical provider may find an issue before you do. 
  4. Stay active. The most common cause of falling is muscular weakness. Taking part in a comprehensive exercise program multiple times a week will increase your strength, balance and confidence, and may assist you in decreasing blood pressure and cholesterol.
  5. Keep your house clean and clear of hazards. Collections of newspapers, mail, packages, and household items such as drop cords and throw rugs increase our chances of ending up in the floor. I am a strong believer in getting rid of the clutter, including throw rugs. Have a clear, clutter free path to your frequently used areas of the home (bedroom, bathroom, kitchen) A clutter free home also decreases ones stress level.
  6. Watch out for your pets. I’m not an advocate of getting rid of our fur babies (dogs and cats), but they can often get under your feet while walking, so watch your step while they are underfoot.
  7. Know your body and its limits. If you are one who gets dizzy when you get out of bed or up from a chair, make sure you give yourself extra time. Your body needs to make adjustments before you sprint to the bathroom or that ringing phone. You also need to make sure your medical provider is aware of this condition.
  8. Use assisted devices when directed. The time to reach for a cane or walker should not be when you are in the floor grasping for things nearby. If you have been directed to use an assistive device, do so until you can show your healthcare provider (through strength and balancing programs) that the device is no longer necessary. 

I have yet to speak with an older adult who loves the aging process. They all have the same message: “Getting old isn’t for sissies.” Aging may not be the most fun, but it is the most necessary thing to get you to next year.

I want everyone to enjoy fall, but don’t fall yourself. Please don’t meet us by accident.  

Join us SAIL class

The Spartanburg Medial Center Trauma Center sponsors Stay Active & Independent for Life (SAIL) classes to keep you active and balanced. SAIL is a one-hour strength, balance and fitness class for older adults designed to increase strength and balance, keeping you active and independent. Registration is not required for this free class, which includes exercises and a workbook. Visit SpartanburgRegional.com/Events for a schedule of upcoming classes.