How to Avoid a Trip to the ER

tai chi for balance

As you get older, things obviously change, and there is more that you need to watch out for. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t live your life to the fullest.

People go to the emergency room every day for countless reasons. However, for people over the age of 65, falls are the main reason – and sometimes the most fatal. Many different conditions increase your likelihood of falling, and it is important to identify them, to prevent future falls.

Doctors Nimit Agarwal, Sumit Agarwal and Kristina Balangue, of internal medicine and geriatrics at Banner – University Medical Center Phoenix, weighed in on this important subject.

Reason for falls

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identifies several risk factors for falling:

Lower body weakness:

With age, the body becomes weaker. This can lead to falls, but sometimes it isn’t this simple. Our experts say that it is important to watch out for osteoporosis, which can make bones thinner and more prone to fracture. This can make a fall much more dangerous and sometimes life-threatening.

Our experts note that our bodies are built to absorb falls. If you fall from ground-level and fracture a bone, then that typically points to osteoporosis.

Vitamin D deficiency

Not enough vitamin D in your system can cause problems. Our experts say that lack of calcium and vitamin D can also contribute to fall related bone injuries.

Make sure to ask your doctor if you should introduce these supplements into your daily routine.

Difficulties with walking and balancing

Walking aids, such as canes or walkers, can help with improving walking and balance. Ask your doctor if these might be beneficial for you.

Our experts note that exercise can help with these issues – an excellent exercise for balance is Tai Chi. Staying mobile is important. Even those who are hospitalized at Banner are encouraged to eat their meals out of bed and walk at least 100 feet two to three times a day to prevent loss of muscle function.

Use of medicines

Many different medications can affect you more than you might realize. Dr. Balangue says that it is always important to disclose to your doctor what you are taking (vitamins, over-the-counters, etc.), even if it doesn’t seem significant.

Some medications that might put you at risk for falling are:

  • Sedatives and over the counter sleep medications
  • Allergy medications
  • Antidepressants

Medications that might seem harmless – such as Benadryl or Advil PM – can create a great risk towards falling, due to their sedating effect.

Vision problems

As you age, vision problems will likely arise or worsen. It is important to check in with your eye doctor at least once per year to make sure you are taking the appropriate steps needed for your vision.

Foot pain or footwear

Any type of irritation around your feet can easily cause a fall. Wear comfortable footwear or consider adding comfort insoles to your favorite shoes.

If you have persistent pain, you should seek medical attention.

Home hazards and dangers

Your house should always be a safe place for you to spend your time. To do so, make these simple changes:

  • Tidy up to reduce the risk of tripping.
  • Remove rugs that are not non-slip.
  • Fix broken or uneven steps.
  • If you don’t have them already, consider installing railings on both sides of stairs.
  • Increase the amount of light by adding more sources or just brighter bulbs – our experts say to consider a nightlight to reduce the likelihood of falling.

Result of falling

One of the worst injuries that can happen to those 65 and older is a hip fracture. Not only is it hard to recover from such an injury, but it becomes much harder to live your everyday life.

According to the CDC, this group has over 300,000 hospitalizations each year for hip fractures – and more than 95% of hip fractures are caused by falls.

Our experts say that a broken hip can make those affected more susceptible to deterioration. They see many older adults who have hip fractures, which changes their life drastically including making them dependent on other people and even leading to death within a year of their injury. Therefore, it is extremely important to prevent these falls from happening.

Banner – University Medical Center Phoenix is the first hospital in Arizona to get the coveted Geriatric Emergency Department Accreditation from American College of Emergency Physicians. The team of doctors, nurses, therapists and staff at the hospital are specially trained for management of falls and fall-related injuries. Banner Health even offers classes that can help you stay active, which will lessen the likelihood of a fall. To find a class near you, click here.

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