The World Health Organization (WHO) describes falls as a “major public health problem.” While most falls result in minor injuries–or none at all–they can cause serious damage and even be fatal. Understanding the causes of falls, where they happen, who is vulnerable, risk factors, and preventative measures is key to feeling more comfortable with falls, and better preparing to prevent and cope with this common situation.
According to WHO, “a fall is defined as an event which results in a person coming to rest inadvertently on the ground or floor or other lower level.” A trip, a stumble, a misstep–any of these things can result in a fall.
Who is Most Vulnerable
The two populations most vulnerable to serious injuries from falls are older people and children–for very different reasons. Older people tend to be more at risk, likely because of physical and sensory changes associated with aging. Children are at risk because of, well, risk taking behaviors–they’re more likely to put themselves in positions where a fall is more dangerous, such as exploring abandoned buildings, climbing trees, etc.
It’s worth noting that unintentional falls are also the leading cause of workplace injuries in the US–risky work environments, like construction sites, and stress may contribute to these injuries.
Environment: The severity of falls usually correlates directly with environment. Create living environments with safety in mind, particularly for at risk people.
Supervision: With children–and even workers in dangerous field, like construction–supervision is key. The designated supervisor should be capable of spotty dangerous elements in the area, and able to effectively communicate these dangers with those around them.
Alcohol and Substance Use: Obviously, drugs and alcohol can impair the ability of anyone to negotiate their environment safely. Keep substance use to a minimum, and keep risk down.
Side Effects: Many medications have side effects which may impair sense of balance or coordination. Be aware of the side effects of medications, and take time to understand how new medications affect you before attempting risky activities.
Underlying Medical Conditions: Neurological, cardiac, and physical conditions can impact your likelihood of falling.
- Regularly consult with a physician or specialist to:
- Identify risk factors
- Review medications
- Review nutrition and suggest or provide supplements
- Diagnose and treat any conditions which can contribute to falls
- Treat visual impairment
- Prescribe assistive devices as appropriate
- Learn at home corrective or strengthening exercises to improve balance or coordination
- Find group classes, such as Tai Chi, designed to improve balance, strength, and coordination
- Screen the home for risk factors, or provide a checklist for what to avoid or replace to make the home safer
- Make sure children are appropriately supervised
- Discuss specific hazardous situations with children to help them understand why these environments are risky and what kind of injuries can happen in them
- Regularly consult with a physician or specialists to:
- Assess nutrition, and pinpoint any deficiencies which may lead to lightheadedness, weakness, or coordination issues
- Test for visual impairment–super important for growing children, who may not be aware of gradual changes in vision
- Diagnosis and treatment of any underlying conditions, including developmental issues, abnormal gait, etc.
- Take steps to make sure your workplace is safe. Document and report any concerns
- Stay hydrated–dehydration can make you feel dizzy, and impact your balance
- Take care with alcohol and other substances
- Regularly consult with a physician or specialist:
- To check for any conditions, such as low blood pressure, ear infections or other problems with may impair your balance
- Have your vision checked regularly
- Review any medications you’re taking and discuss the side effects of each
- To review your nutritional intake and get supplements if necessary
- Wear comfortable, supportive footwear with intact soles
- Replace worn down soles–or shoes–regularly as they wear down
Concerned about falls? Request an appointment with our specialists today.