YOUR LIFE YOUR HEALTH

Falls can cause serious injury, doctors say. Here’s how to prevent them.

Nov 4, 2021, 8:43 PM | Updated: Dec 6, 2021, 1:50 pm

MURRAY, Utah –– Falls are a leading cause of injury-related hospital admissions for people 65 and older. They often result in a lengthy recovery. An Intermountain emergency room doctor explained how to prevent them.

Lyn and Stephen Burningham love to share their harvest of Butternut Squash. They’re also offering something else: “I’m going out soliciting railings for my neighbors,” said Lyn Burningham, age 76, who lives in Riverton. She’s sharing a warning about falls. “(I) opened it (the door) and just flew out. I hit down against my car, and hit the car, and went to the ground.”

Stephen Burningham, Lyn’s husband, said, “I picked her head up off the cement and my hand came out all bloody.”

One in four people over 65 falls each year. It’s the leading cause of fatal injury in that age group, according to the National Council on Aging. More than half of Utahns 65 and older who were hospitalized from a fall had to go to residential care or a rehabilitation facility, say experts at Intermountain Healthcare. One out of every five falls leads to a serious injury like broken bones or head trauma. That can lead to depression, loss of mobility and independence. But doctors say many falls can be prevented.

“When the weather changes, we see a lot of falls. It seems to be at night, we see a lot of falls,” said Dr. Spencer Proctor, Emergency Department Chair at Intermountain Riverton Hospital.

Proctor says it’s the most common injury he treats. “It’s slick, there’s ice. They fall. Maybe they’re not wearing the proper shoes.”

He advised exercising regularly to strengthen muscles and improve balance. Remove tripping hazards like rugs and toys, and be aware of small pets. Take extra precautions in unfamiliar environments. Get your vision and hearing checked every year. Also, install nightlights in low light areas.

“If you had one or two of these (nightlights) in your hallway between your bedroom and your bathroom, that way when you get up to go to the bathroom at night, you’re not tripping and falling over a rug or a misplaced slipper.” Lyn and Stephen added a railing to make their stairs safer. “As we get older, we sometimes do things so automatically, we don’t think ahead,” Lyn Burningham said.

And she’s doing much better, secure in the knowledge that they’re doing all they can to prevent another fall.

Doctors say it’s a good idea to regularly review your medications with your doctor. Some combinations can cause dizziness and increase your risk of falling. More tips from Intermountain include:

• Talk to your family members or others close to you. Ask them to help you take simple steps to stay safe. An unsafe home increases the risk for falling for everyone, from the very young to the very old.

• It’s safest to have uniform lighting in a room. Add lighting to dark areas. Hang lightweight curtains or shades to reduce glare.

• Paint a contrasting color on the top edge of all steps so you can see the stairs better. For example, use a light color paint on dark wood.

• Regularly review your medications with your doctor and/or pharmacist. This includes medications prescribed by all of your healthcare providers and any over-the-counter drugs, vitamins, supplements, or herbs you are using. Some combinations may cause side effects that increase dizziness or your risk of falling. Take your medications only as prescribed.

• Ask your doctor to assess your risk for falling. And make sure to share your history of any recent falls.

• Get up slowly after you sit or lie down. Wear shoes both inside and outside the house. Avoid going barefoot or just wearing socks or slippers.

• Falls Prevention Kit. Intermountain Riverton’s emergency department is equipped with kits for those 65 years and older. The kit contains – non-slip socks, night lights, information on Stepping On fall prevention courses, and My Mobility Plan from the CDC which has a step-by-step guide on things to do in your home to prevent falls.

• Take a Stepping On prevention course, Strength and Balance class or Tai Chi for Arthritis /Health class. The Utah Department of Health is offering free virtual classes. Tai Chi for Arthritis/Health classes incorporates exercises that improve muscular strength, flexibility and fitness. The Tai Chi for Arthritis/Health program also focuses on weight transference, which improves balance and prevents falls. You can sign up here. See the Utah Falls Prevention Alliance for more information.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

Your Life Your Health

Harmoni Memmott went through seven months of chemotherapy at Primary Children's Hospital to beat a ...
Ayanna Likens

2-year-old beats cancer after receiving care at Primary Children’s Hospital

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, and one 2-year-old in Tooele battled cancer and beat it after treatment at Primary Children's Hospital.
3 days ago
FILE PHOTO (Maryland State Police)...
Ayanna Likens

How to make sure your child’s car seat is properly installed

It's Child Passenger Safety week, and it's crucial that your kids are properly buckled in before you hit the road.
10 days ago
A program at LDS Hospital is bringing support and a distraction from those receiving treatment for ...
Ayanna Likens

Joy and Wellness Program provided support for those battling cancer

A program at LDS Hospital is bringing support and a distraction from those receiving treatment for blood cancers.
17 days ago
Intermountain healthcare launched a new mental health resource that will visit children and teens i...
Ayanna Likens

A new free mental health resource in Utah will visit children in their moment of crisis

Intermountain Healthcare launched a new mental health resource for children and teens. The Stabilization Mobile Response unit (SMR) is designed to go to your home in a discreet way to help your child in crisis. The service is free.
24 days ago
Max Thomas Richins (right) and Dr. James Hellowell (left), the man who Richins credits with saving ...
Ayanna Likens

Ogden man shares how naloxone saved his life

In honor of International Overdose Awareness Day, one Ogden man said naloxone saved his life — and many of his friends, too.
1 month ago
Mom of three, Abby, working out....
Ayanna Likens

Creating healthy habits for families as kids return to school

Summer has come to an end, and school is back in session, which comes with a big adjustment for both parents and kids.
1 month ago

Sponsored Articles

Portrait of smiling practitioner with multi-ethnic senior people...
Summit Vista

How retirement communities help with healthy aging

There are many benefits that retirement communities contribute to healthy aging. Learn more about how it can enhance your life, or the life of your loved ones.
Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to choose what MBA program is right for you: Ask these questions before you apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
Cloud storage technology with 3d rendering drawer with files in cloud...
PC Laptops

How backing up your computer can help you relieve stress

Don't wait for something bad to happen before backing up your computer. Learn how to protect your data before disaster strikes.
young woman with stickers on laptop computer...
Les Olson

7 ways print marketing materials can boost your business

Custom print marketing materials are a great way to leave an impression on clients or customers. Read for a few ideas to spread the word about your product or company.
young woman throwing clothes to organize a walk in closet...
Lighting Design

How to organize your walk-in closet | 7 easy tips to streamline your storage today

Read our tips to learn how to organize your walk-in closet for more storage space. These seven easy tips can help you get the most out of your space.
Types of Computer Malware and Examples...
PC Laptops

5 Nasty Types of Computer Malware and Examples | Everything You Need to Know to Keep Your Computer and Family Safe

Here are the different types of computer malware and examples that could potentially infect your computer.
Falls can cause serious injury, doctors say. Here’s how to prevent them.