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Whatever the weather, accidental falls are serious risk for elder Oregonians

elder fall on area rug.JPG
Keith Griffiths
/
Unsplash
CDC data shows 20% of falls in adults lead to life-altering changes, mostly from broken hips or brain injuries.

Falls are the most common type of unintentional injury in the U.S. and the leading cause of accidental death. In winter, “slip and falls” increase—but older Oregonians are at risk of taking a serious fall throughout the year.

Falls are the most common type of unintentional injury in the United States, and the leading cause of accidental death. In winter, “slip and falls” increase—but older Oregonians are at risk of taking a serious fall throughout the year.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 20% of falls in adults lead to life-altering changes, mostly from broken hips or brain injuries. Adult Nurse Practitioner James Sims treats 4 or 5 fall injuries each week at PeaceHealth’s Senior Health and Wellness Clinic in Eugene. He said uneven pavement or slippery sidewalks are common risk factors outdoors, but the home is where most falls occur.

“Many individuals may have fall hazards such as no handrails in the shower or bathtub,” said Sims. “They may have area rugs that are not secured that could present a slip and fall. Pets. People come to the office frequently reporting that they tripped and fell over their dog or cat.”

Adult children can help their aging loved ones by going over the CDC’s fall prevention checklist.

Sims said the fear of falling shouldn’t make older adults immobile. On the contrary, he says elders should “keep moving,” to maintain strength in the lower body. Regular movement is a proven fall prevention tactic.

keep moving pic.JPG
Unsplash
PeaceHealth's Adult Nurse Practitioner James Sims says the fear of falling shouldn’t render older adults immobile. On the contrary, he says, elders should “keep moving,” to maintain strength in the lower body. This will reduce the risk of falling.

Other prevention tips include ensuring there are night lights and proper lighting set up at nighttime or in dark hallways/rooms.

Wearing proper non-slip shoes really helps decrease fall risk as wearing proper fitting shoes with a good non-slip surface allows for proper lifting of your feet while walking. House shoes and slippers without a back can often cause a person to shuffle their feet during walking, increasing the risk of tripping.

Assist your loved one in managing their medications - Many medications may have side effects that can put you at increased risk for falling. These fall prevention efforts and others may help an elder "age in place" and remain independent longer.

And as for every age group, don't take unnecessary risks like going on the roof to clear gutters without supports or take off tromping on an outdoor staircase when it's icy. One fall could mean it all.

Tiffany joined the KLCC News team in 2007. She studied journalism at the University of Missouri-Columbia and has worked in a variety of media including television and daily print news. For KLCC, Tiffany reports on health care, social justice and local/regional news. She has won awards from Oregon Associated Press, PRNDI, and Education Writers Association.