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Falls Are Top Cause of Injury, Death Among Elderly

Not all homes are the same, but common sense measures can reduce the risk, expert says

SATURDAY, July 19 (HealthDay News) -- Falls are a leading cause of serious injury and death among elderly people in the United States, and most of those falls occur in the home, says the American Geriatric Society (AGS).

"There are many steps people can take to make their home safer for those who are aging. Something as small as using a night light in a dark hallway can prevent an elderly person from falling during the night," Dr. Cheryl Phillips, a member of the AGS, said in a news release. "Falls are so dangerous to this particular population, and there are easy ways to help avoid them," she added.

Phillips offered the following safety suggestions:

  • Remove loose carpets and rugs, and put non-skid backing on rugs to avoid tripping.
  • Wear shoes with firm, non-skid soles around the house. Wearing slippers or socks without some type of rubber grip on the bottom can increased the risk of falls.
  • Place night lights in dimly lit areas, at the top and bottom of stairs, and in bedrooms and bathrooms.
  • Remove clutter, boxes and low furniture from the house, and especially from near staircases.
  • Install hand rails near any stairs in the home or backyard and check that existing hand rails are sturdy.
  • Install grab bars near the toilet and bath tub, and no slip decals or a rubber mat in the tub or shower.
  • Place contrasting strips at the edge of each step to clearly define where the step ends.

"I advise caregivers to walk through the home and check each room for potential dangers. Not all homes are the same, so caregivers should ask themselves what safety issues are unique to the particular house," Phillips said.

Each year, about one in three Americans aged 65 and older suffers a fall, and 30 percent of those falls cause injuries that require medical treatment. In 2005, almost 16,000 older adults in the United States died from falls, 1.8 million were treated in emergency departments, and 433,000 were hospitalized.

More information

The U.S. National Institute on Aging has more about older adults and falls.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: American Geriatrics Society, news release, July 2008

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