STATEWIDE OSTEOPOROSIS RESOURCE CENTER
 

Safety/Fall Prevention

 

Safety strategies to protect your bones are important for everyone. For example, people can protect their bones and overall health by wearing seat belts in moving vehicles and by using appropriate protective equipment when participating in sports. If you have been diagnosed with osteoporosis, your bones are thinner, weaker, and you may be more likely to break as a result of a fall. In fact, most broken bones including broken hips happen as a result of a fall. Falls happen for many reasons; many of them can be avoided.

How common are falls?

Anyone is at risk for a fall! However, as adults age, the risk of falling increases along with the risk for more severe injury. According to statistics published by the New York State Bureau of Occupational Health and Injury Prevention, among New Yorkers ages 65 and older who are hospitalized due to a fall 60% end up in a nursing home or rehabilitation center, 11% suffer a traumatic brain injury, and 27% experience a hip fracture.

What are the risk factors for falls?

There are several factors that can increase the risk of a fall.

Risk Factors for Falls
Lower body weakness
Problems with the way you walk or move
Poor balance
Impaired hearing
Certain chronic conditions that increase the risk of falling such as Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis, dementia, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease or severe osteoporosis
Use of many (4 or more) medications
A previous history of falls
Fear of falling

For more information about Falls in Older Adults in New York State, visit the The New York State Bureau of Occupational Health and Injury Prevention.

Knowing your personal risk for falls can help you take steps to prevent falls and broken bones. Learning how to balance and improve your core strength through physical activity may help prevent a fall from happening. By participating in safe physical activity, you can help strengthen the muscles that protect your bones in the event of a fall.

How can I reduce my risk for falling in my home?

It is important to do a home safety check on a regular basis to identify and modify falling hazards. Sometimes it is hard to recognize hazards in your own home; consider asking a friend or family member to help safeguard your home. The National Center for Injury Prevention and Control Publication entitled "Check For Safety: A Home Fall Prevention Checklist for Older Adults" can assist you in safe-proofing your home. Just a few of the steps that you can take to fall-proof your environment include securing throw rugs, using night lights, and installing grab bars in the bathroom. In addition, it is also very important to prevent and avoid wet, slippery floors both inside and outside of your home.

What are some other strategies for fall prevention?

  • Get regular vision and hearing exams - Poor vision and hearing loss are common reasons for falls. It is important to have your hearing and vision checked on a regular basis by your healthcare provider.

  • Know the side effects of the medications that you take - If you take medications, it is important to know the possible side effects. Some medications can cause dizziness or lightheadedness and increase your risk for falls. For more information about the how to avoid the potential side effects of your medication, speak to your pharmacist or healthcare provider. Do not change or stop taking your medication without medical advice.

  • Take precautions for outdoor safety - It is important to avoid walking on slippery surfaces and to be cautious walking on cracks and uneven surfaces. Another wise safety choice is to park in lighted areas at night. It is a good idea to carry a
    small, lightweight flashlight in your pocket or pocketbook.

  • Use assistive devices properly and safely when needed - There are many assistive devices such as canes, walkers, and grabbers that can help individuals who are at increased risk for falling. When used properly and safely, these devices can promote independence and reduce the risk of falling. Speak to your healthcare provider to find out if a consultation with a physical therapist or occupational therapist would benefit you. A physical therapist or occupational therapist helps individuals find the right assistive device and instructs how to use it properly to ensure safety.

  • Avoid drinking too much alcohol - Consuming excessive alcohol can impair balance and increase the risk of falling.

  • Use proper body mechanics and move safely. For example, in a grocery store ask for help when trying to reach items on high shelves. Do not carry too many heavy bags at once. Pack bags lightly and ask for help with carrying when necessary. 

  • Select clothing and footwear with safety in mind.

What are the recommendations for safe dressing?

Here a few recommended safe dressing and fashion tips:

  • Wear flat shoes with rubber, non-skid soles- It is important to avoid high heels, slippers, and running shoes with thick soles.

  • Shorten and even hemlines to avoid tripping- Hanging hemlines and wide-legged pants should be avoided to prevent catching your heel.

  • Choose a lightweight purse that leaves your hands free such as a fanny pack or a lightweight backpack.
  • Avoid leather or other heavy shoulder bags.

  • Speak to your healthcare provider to find out if it would be beneficial to wear undergarments with hip protectors to help cushion the hip in case you fall.

A falls risk assessment is recommended as part of a routine medical examination for all older adults as well as for people with medical conditions that affect balance and the way you walk or move. If you have a history of falls or if you have been diagnosed with osteoporosis or fractures related to osteoporosis, it is important to speak to your healthcare provider about your personal risks for falling and about the fall prevention steps you should take to protect your bones.