One of my top clients was so excited to bring in an article from yesterday’s (June 5, 2019) New York Times, “Rate of Death From a Fall Is Increasing Rapidly for Americans over 75,” by Katie Hafner. Here is the link: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/04/health/falls-elderly-prevention-deaths.html .
Let me start out by stating that while I am not a doctor, my many years working as a congregational rabbi and doing hospital visits has taught me a thing or two. In particular, I have seen first-hand that falls are a huge problem for older Americans. There is more than just the physical trauma too. A fall can make a person anxious about falling again so they go out less. Going out less leads to social isolation, can contribute to poor nutrition (ordering in rather than going to a store to get “real” food), and a general decline in conditions.
A new study out by the Journal of American Medicine shows that the rate of death from falls for those over 75 is going up at an alarming rate. There are a number of factors that explain this, but chief among them is that folks are surviving other conditions that might previously have ended their lives; the more we age and the longer we live, the higher a role falls plays in morbidity.
Part of my training as a Functional Aging Specialist allows me to better detect when a person is at a higher risk for a fall. My training has also taught me how to work to mitigate the risk. With some of my clients, this is a huge part of what we do–simply learning not to fall, and what to do if it does happen.
The article suggest that there are a number of factors that can help prevent falls: exercise, being aware of medications and the effect they can have on balance, the clothes and accessories we are wearing (bifocals and high heels are both culprits), tidying up to get rid of tripping hazards, and staying hydrated.
Falls are not inevitable. They can be prevented. When they are, they allow older adults to live longer, more independent and joyful lives. As we age, we need to be cognizant of this possibility and take the steps to make our golden years fall-free.