Fall Prevention in Older Veterans

Recently, the VA sent out an informative flyer on fall risk and fall-related injuries in older veterans. Much of this can apply to older persons in general. Consider sharing the fall prevention tips below with someone you care about.

Important facts about falls in older adults:
• One out of four older adults living at home fall each year
• One out of five falls results in fracture or other serious injury
• One out of two older adults living in a long-term care setting fall each year
• About 3 million older adults are treated annually in emergency departments for falls
• Over 800,000 older adults are hospitalized every year with falls related injury
• Over 15,000 die every year with falls related injury
• Annual medical costs for non-fatal falls is about $50 billion and for fatal falls is $754 million
• Morbidity and mortality related to falls is high in long-term care setting: 20% of the falls result in serious injury and more than 1500 older adults die each year due to falls
• Risk of falls is high in those with previous history of falls: 60% fall each year
• Using restraints does not lower the risk of falls or injuries from those falls

The reason for falls in older adults is multi-factorial. Common risk factors for falls include:
• Lower body weakness or difficulty walking and balance
• Home/environmental hazards
• Medical conditions such as dizziness, arthritis, infection, dehydration, electrolyte imbalances, low blood pressure, low sugars
• Cognitive/psychiatric conditions such as memory problems, depression
• Foot pain or poor footwear
• Vision problems
• Vitamin D deficiency
• Inadequate walking aids
• Medications

Approach for Veterans with fall:
• Inter-disciplinary team approach involving primary care, pharmacy, physical therapy, occupational therapy, dietician, and mental health may be needed to prevent falls.
• Healthcare providers can assess Veterans for common risk factors for falls and manage their medical conditions as deemed appropriate.
• Medication review needs to be performed at each clinic visit for all older adults to reduce interactions and side effects to prevent falls.
• Home safety evaluation may be needed to prevent falls related to environmental hazards
• Physical therapy consults may be needed to improve balance and strength, and to provide recommendations for adequate walking aids.

For more information about falls:

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