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Reducing Risk of Slip and Fall in the Elderly

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one out of three adults 65 or older will experience a fall each year. One out of five will suffer a serious injury, including broken bones or head trauma. More than 700,000 adults are hospitalized each year because of injuries received during a fall. An estimated $34 billion is spent each year on medical care. Two-thirds of this amount is attributed to hospital stays to treat these injuries.

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Conditions that May Increase the Possibility of Slip and Falls

Many adults may experience a fall, but may not suffer an injury. This can make them fearful that they may fall again. They become less active and cut back on daily activities. In turn, they often become weaker and fall again. In fact, the likelihood of falling doubles if a person has already suffered a fall.

There are many risk factors that increase the possibility that an elderly person may fall. Most falls that occur are caused by a combination of several factors, including:

  • Weakness in the lower extremities
  • Loss of sensation or pain in feet from diabetic neuropathy
  • Vitamin D deficiency
  • Problems with walking or maintaining balance
  • Poor vision
  • Taking medications that may affect balance or make someone drowsy. Medications may include antidepressants, tranquilizers and some over-the-counter medications.
  • Hazards in the home, including:
    • Broken or no handrails on stairs
    • Throw rugs
    • Broken steps

Slip and Falls Outside the Home

Injury causing falls do not happen only at home. Stores are a common place where slip and falls happen, according to slip and fall attorneys. Conditions such as wet floors, icy parking lots and sidewalks, unsecured floor mats or poorly lit areas along with the above risk factors can cause falls with injuries. When a slip and fall occurs in a store or other type of business that is open to the public, they could be held liable for any injuries received.

A business that is open to the public has a duty to ensure they are maintaining a safe environment for their customers. If the store's staff was reasonably aware of an unsafe condition, such as a spill in an aisle or ice near the entrance and failed to take care of the problem, then they are negligent. It may be possible for the injured party's slip and fall attorney to show that the store was negligent if there is enough evidence to prove negligence.

There is a limited amount of time to file a personal injury claim from a slip and fall accident. Tennessee's statute of limitations requires that personal injury lawsuits must be filed within a year of the fall. If a death occurs because of injuries from a slip and fall, that lawsuit must be filed within a year of the date of death.

Preventing Slip and Falls in the Elderly

One of the best ways to prevent slip and falls in the elderly is to minimize as many risk factors as possible that could cause a fall:

  • Clear the clutter away in the home, such as electrical cords, phone wires or pet bowls, especially in walkway areas.
  • Older people need more light to see, so make sure areas are well-lit and that flashlights are in an accessible place if the power goes out.
  • Make sure stairways have secure handrails, and install handrails on both sides of steps and safety treads on each step.
  • Bathrooms can be dangerous because of slippery conditions, but they can be made safer by installing grab bars near toilets and in bathtubs.
  • Make sure non-skid mats and rugs are used on bathroom floors to prevent skidding on unsecured rugs.
  • Avoid using throw rugs around the home unless they can be secured with double-sided tape.
  • Wear sturdy footwear both inside and outside the home and avoid wearing slippers.
  • Keep items, such as dishes, food or clothes in areas within reach to avoid climbing on a stool.

Strategic Ways the Elderly Can Avoid Falls

Falls can happen anywhere, but there are strategies that the elderly can use on their own to lessen their risks of slipping and falling. While walking on stairs do not rush and try to remain in the moment by avoiding distractions. Look around for things that such as high curbs, puddles or objects laying around that could cause a fall.

A study in The New England Journal of Medicine has touted the benefits of using tai chi to improve balance, increase bone strength and improve joint stability in older adults. It was concluded that this exercise can reduce the possibility of fall by almost 45 percent. This slow-moving exercise has zero impact and can be adapted to every fitness level or age group.

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