One of the most common fears among the elderly is an injury from a fall. Seemingly countless people 65 and older have broken their hip or injured themselves in some way from a fall, but it is actually not the fall that is the problem. The bigger problem is the complications from the falls. According to a recent article in the New York Times, it is complications from falls that are the biggest cause of fatal injuries among the elderly. It is estimated that there is a death every 19 minutes directly tied to complications from a fall.

These complications often arise out of both physical and mental issues. Those initially injured or scared by a fall can become fearful and limit their activities, which can lead to further physical decline, social isolation, and even depression. This downward spiral can actually hasten death.

Everyone trips and falls occasionally, and some falls cannot be avoided, but an estimated 25 percent of the elderly fall each year. Nevertheless, falling is not necessarily a byproduct of aging. Moreover, the risk of falling can be reduced once an individual understands why people fall and steps that can be taken to reduce the risk of falling.

Steps that can reduce the risk

There is a number of precautions that can be taken:

• Exercise to improve leg strength and balance, which enables people to better cope with hazards and obstacles.

• Check with doctors to make sure that high dosages of medication are not causing dizziness or drowsiness.

• Have eyesight checked regularly to make sure that your eyes are not worsening.

• Have your hearing checked and get hearing aids to avoid being startled by sounds.

Making living spaces safer

It is also important to make sure that one’s living space is properly maintained. This involves:

• Keeping high traffic areas clear of clutter and obstacles

• Install and use railings on stairs

• Install and use bars for getting in and out of the bathtub and use a good non-slip bathmat.

• Get rid of throw rugs

• Assess your footwear so make sure it is supportive and fits properly

Be mindful of the hazards around you

Businesses and services that cater to seniors often have top-notch safety features, but the local convenience store, favorite restaurant or busy big box store may not be as attentive to the needs of the elderly and infirm. This can lead to slip-trip-and-fall injuries that begin the degenerative process with its all-too-common results.

Those who fall and injure themselves should seek medical help as soon as possible. If the victim is injured outside the home, it is a good idea to also speak to a knowledgeable personal injury attorney. They understand the nature of injuries in the elderly and can be instrumental in helping the victims and their families get the compensation they need for a full recovery or additional support.