Falls are more common and more serious than you think. One out of five falling accidents results in a broken bone. Falls kill almost as many Americans each year as motor vehicles and firearms.
The elderly are especially at risk of falling, and more prone to serious or life-threatening injuries when they do. Here are some tips for keeping yourself and loved ones safe – in the home or out and about.
Preventing falls in the home
Aside from funny “fail” videos on YouTube, falls are gravely serious business. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists falls as one of the leading causes of accidental death in the United States. The CDC reports that more than 33,000 people died in the U.S. in 2014 from falls or complications of falling accidents – the same number of lives claimed by traffic accidents.
The World Health Organization says that 20 to 30 percent of elderly people will suffer moderate to severe injuries when they fall, from bruises and wrist fractures to broken hips and head trauma.
The following can help to lower the risk of a catastrophic fall in the home:
- Footwear: Slip-resistant slippers or socks with a rubber bottom, especially on stairs or wood floors, can help prevent falls.
- Obstacles: Many falls are caused by tripping hazards. Screen floors and stairs for clutter, cords, rugs or other things that could cause someone to slip or trip.
- Slippery floors: Put slip-resistant mats or appliqués inside the shower and bathtub. Use non-slip mats outside the shower and tub, and consider non-slip stickers for stairs.
- Walking aids and safety bars: Make sure that anyone who is frail or unsteady has access to a walker, cane or assistive device. Install grab bars and railings not only in bathrooms but on porches, stairs, step-ups.
- Vision: Your loved one should have their eyes checked annually, their prescriptions updated as necessary, and their eyeglasses cleaned regularly. Also replace dim or burned-out bulbs.
When a fall occurs outside the home
The natural tendency is to blame one’s own clumsiness. But in many cases there is a hidden hazard or a neglected duty on the part of the property owner or management.
There may be an actionable personal injury claim if there was a wet or waxed floor, boxes or debris underfoot, uneven pavement, parking lot potholes or other falling hazard.
In a nursing home or hospital, frail patients should be assessed for fall risk and assisted appropriately when walking, using the bathroom, getting out of bed, etc.
If your loved one suffered serious injury or died from complications of a fall, consult an attorney about a possible premises liability claim. Most personal injury lawyers will provide a free consultation to discuss the merits of your case.