Serious falls are the leading cause of injuries for adults age 65 and older. Learn how to prevent falls from Mass General experts.

If you are age 65 or older, you may be at risk for a debilitating injury from a fall. Also, if you have loved ones who are 65 years or older, they are also at risk for falls and injuries. There are many things that you can do to prevent falls for yourself and your loved ones.

More than half of all falls among older adults occur in the home.

Unintentional falls are the leading cause of injury-related death and non-fatal injuries among Massachusetts residents age 65 and older. About one in three older adults fall every year, but most do not talk to their families or their doctors about it.

Falls are the number one cause for admission at the Mass General Trauma Center, and winter weather can make falls more likely. Injuries from falls range from bruises to lifelong debilitating injuries, such as broken hips and brain injuries.

Tips to Prevent Falls

  • Stay active and exercise, especially balance and leg strengthening exercises. Some older adults become more sedentary and some think that by not exercising they are preventing themselves from falling. Instead the opposite is true. Regular exercise that gets more challenging over time helps improve strength and balance and reduces your risk of a fall. Tai Chi has been shown to improve strength and balance among older adults.
  • Get your eyes checked by an eye doctor. Go every year and make sure your prescription eyeglasses are up-to-date.
  • Regular exercise that gets more challenging over time helps improve strength and balance and reduces your risk of a fall.

  • Have your doctor review your medications. Some medications can make you feel tired or dizzy and sometimes medications that are taken together can have unintended side effects. Make sure your doctor reviews all of your prescription and non-prescription medications and provides a plan for the optimal time to take your medications. This is especially important if you have multiple different doctors that take care of your health. It is also important to provide a list of all your current medications when you visit your doctors.
  • Take special precautions if you use blood thinning medications. Many elderly people are prescribed medicines that reduce the chance of a blood clot. These medications are called “blood thinners” and can include the following: warfarin (Coumadin), heparin, rivaroxaban (Xarelto), enoxaparin (Lovenox), Aspirin and Clopidogrel (Plavix), dabigatran (Pradaxa), apixaban (Eliquis) and others. People who are taking these medications need to be especially careful of falls as a fall can be devastating and lead to severe disability or death. Even a minor fall can be serious for a person taking a blood thinner. Injuries can range from a minor bruise to bleeding in the brain.
  • To reduce risks of falls, wear shoes in your house that are not slippery and that fit well.

  • Make your home safer. More than half of all falls among older adults occur in the home. You can make your home safer by making a few changes: Reduce clutter that can cause tripping. Install railings and grab bars where needed. Secure all rugs and ensure good lighting throughout the house, especially stairways. Wear shoes in your house that are not slippery and that fit well.
  • In the winter, clear away snow and salt your walkway at home or hire someone to do it. Make sure steps and walkways are clear before you walk and be careful of black ice. Wear boots to prevent slipping.

For more information visit: http://www.mass.gov/eohhs/gov/departments/dph/programs/community-health/dvip/injury-prevention/falls.html or http://nihseniorhealth.gov/falls/causesandriskfactors/01.html

To learn more about preventing falls, call 1-800-227-SAFE or visit
http://www.cdc.gov/homeandrecreationalsafety/falls/adultfalls.html

To make a donation to support the MGH Trauma Injury Prevention and Outreach Program contact us.

Jarone Lee, MD, MPH

Jarone Lee, MD, MPH, is an emergency medicine and critical care physician. He is also the associate medical director for the Blake 12 intensive care unit. In addition, Dr. Lee is an assistant professor of surgery and emergency medicine at Harvard Medical School and a leader in the MGH Trauma Injury Prevention and Outreach Program. This program applies evidenced-based approaches to prevent injuries to children and adults and advocates for policies to improve the health and safety of our communities.

Toby Raybould, MS

Toby Raybould, MS, is the manager for the MGH Trauma Injury Prevention and Outreach Program. This program applies evidenced-base approaches to prevent injuries to children and adults and advocates for policies to improve the health and safety of our community.