Everyone slips or trips from time to time, and for most of us, a “little spill” results in no more than a bruise or perhaps a sprain. Even when a fall does cause a more serious injury like a fracture, most of us heal pretty quickly, returning to full function and mobility weeks after the accident.
Falls are a major public health risk in the United States, particularly for certain age groups. However, learning about fall-related risks can help prevent falls from occurring later in life.
But for seniors, it’s a different story. Even a simple trip and fall can cause serious injury, one that can take months or years to heal and repair. And for some seniors, a trip-and-fall accident can result in brain injury, permanent disability and even death. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), falls represent the leading cause of injury and death among older adults in the U.S., with about 25 percent of seniors experiencing a fall-related injury each year. What’s more, the CDC says that every single second in the U.S., a senior experiences a fall. About every 11 seconds, one of those older adults visits an emergency room for care for their fall-related injuries, and about every 19 minutes, one of those seniors dies as a result of their injuries, according to the National Council on Aging (NCOA).
With those statistics, it’s easy to see how the impact of falls is taking a major toll on seniors’ lives - and the NCOA says just the risk of falling can have its own repercussions. According to NCOA reports, many seniors develop a fear of falling. The fear can be especially strong in people who have fallen in the past, regardless of whether or not they were injured. But even seniors who haven’t had a fall or fall-related injury can still develop significant anxiety about their own risk of falling. This is not surprising, considering their increased risk of injury, the potential for long-term disability and death, and the delayed healing that goes hand in hand with getting older.
Preventing Falls: Be Proactive
To help older men and women reduce their risk of falls, a lot of focus has been placed on keeping their homes free of tripping hazards like throw rugs and long electrical cords, or using adequate lighting, especially at floor level. Businesses are also advised to ensure their premises are well-lit and walkways are maintained to eliminate potential tripping hazards or slippery surfaces that can increase the risk of a slip and fall. All of those actions can certainly help decrease the risk of falls, and incorporating as many anti-fall safety features into homes and businesses is an important part of decreasing the risk of injury. But there’s one more step seniors can take to help reduce their risk of falling: balance training. In fact, the sooner you or your loved ones get started, the better.
According to a study published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), fall-prevention exercises not only reduced the risk of falling in a group of more than 4,000 test subjects, but they also decreased the severity of injuries in those who did experience falls. Fall-prevention exercise programs studied by the researchers showed activities aimed at improving balance were especially effective in helping prevent falls and decreasing injury severity, although researchers from Harvard University say there are many types of exercises that can be used to decrease fall risk. The key is to start exercising as early as possible so your body improves its balance, flexibility and strength. In fact, the National Safety Council says starting balance training and other fall-prevention exercises at a younger age can benefit you even before you reach your senior years by training your body to respond more quickly and more appropriately so those reactions become more or less second nature.
Reducing the risk of falls, as important as that is, isn’t the only benefit of starting a fall-prevention exercise program while you’re younger. The Harvard researchers say these exercise programs also provide these benefits:
- improve muscle mass
- improve coordination
- strengthen your bones
- improve brain function.
Balance training doesn’t have to be difficult. The Harvard site shows one example of an exercise you can do at home or at work, and the NCOA site offers some ideas for exercises ideal for improving balance and preventing falls.
Protect Yourself and Your Rights
While you can reduce your risks of falls and fall-related injuries with some proactive preparation, you can’t completely eliminate that risk. And that means when a fall does happen - especially in a business or other public place - you need to make sure your rights are protected.
As one of South Florida's most respected and oldest law firms, Stabinski & Funt, P.A. has helped many people sort out their legal rights, responsibilities, and remedies for 45 years. We work on a contingency basis, which means that if there is no recovery, there is no fee or cost to you. To learn more about how our firm can help you, contact us for a free consultation by calling (305) 964-8644 or filling out a case evaluation form.