(WLNS) – Car accidents are the number one cause of accidental deaths in this country.
Probably not a surprise.
You see those stories all the time on 6 News.
What’s the number two cause?
Something that might surprise you: Falls.
Suzy Carter has been at the helm of the Lansing Area Safety Council for over 20-years encouraging people of all ages to take the right steps to stay safe.
And when it comes to senior citizens the best way to do that, is to avoid slips, trips and falls.
Suzy knows only too well about that scenario.
Her own mother, Betty, suffered a couple of falls and eventually died in April.
Carter says “it can happen to anyone.”
And that’s the point. Falls used to be dismissed as just “part of aging” but now, they’ve “fallen” into a serious public health threat.
And they don’t just happen to older people.
For those 45 to 64 years of age, falls are the number one reason people end up in the emergency room. Millions more are seriously injured.
The medical costs from falls are enormous: about $30 million a year.
But for people 65 years and older falls are the “number one” cause of accidental death.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention the number of older adults who’ve died from falls from 2000 to 2013 has more than doubled.
So why is this such a problem?
Carter says “because folks lose their mobility and you know they’re not doing what they used to do and then you put a fall on them and they don’t recover as fast, if at all.”
That’s what happened to Suzy’s mom.
“You know what she was doing with the first fall?,” asks Carter. “She was packing to go up north for the weekend and was reaching up on a step stool, no, no, no, no.”
And she lost her balance and fell from the step stool? “And yet, she knew it and still did it,” continues Carter.
Suzy says, that’s how it can happen. You do something a hundred times with no problem and then all of sudden “that’s right. That’s all it took.”
Suzy’s mom broke her hip and had to be moved into assisted living.
So did Suzy ever have a talk with her mom and say, ‘Mom, what were you thinking?’
“We took the foot stool away,” said Carter.
Taking things away is a good idea and so is being aware of some of these potential medical issues, like:
- any muscle weakness
- inner-ear problems
- some medications
And then, there are these issues outside. Invisible ice, like black ice, can build-up on driveways and walkways.
And inside, places where you walk, loose rugs or carpeting and slick hardwood floors, wearing high-heels and bathtubs and showers.
Carter adds “I think it’s so important for older adults to really look at their surroundings and recognize what needs to be changed and then, make the necessary changes.”
The Safety Council recommends:
- remove clutter, small furniture, electrical cords and throw rugs.
- wipe up spills immediately
- use non-skid mats in the shower and bath
- put night-lights in bathrooms and hallways
- put “the items you use the most” on lower shelves so you’re not tempted to use a stool.
“Falls are preventable and one of the things that adults can do is exercise,” suggests Carter.
Suzy recommends gentle movement that strengthens muscles and helps maintain your balance.
“It’s just consistent movement that you do everyday and it makes a big difference right there,” reminds Carter.
A big difference, that can keep you healthy and safe for many years to come.