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One fall leads to another, what and why seniors aren’t telling us

By Bill Lusk, CSA

It has never been a secret that senior citizens are susceptible to falling. What is becoming today’s seniors “dirty little secret” is they are not telling family members and their physicians about it. Avoiding the cause and bypassing medical examination often leads to additional falls and more severe injuries. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that falls are the leading cause of injuries and deaths from injury among senior citizens.

Factors contributing to seniors’ increased fall risks include: poor vision, slowed reflexes, unsteady gait, lightheadedness, reduced strength, and balance issues stemming from a variety of health conditions.

Seniors have a tendency to shrug their falls off. They don’t want their loved ones to worry, don’t want to be a bother. That is a normal reaction considering their generation’s propensity to not ask for help. Where the secret begins to get darker is the attempted cover-up of increased care needs and declining mobility because it threatens their independence. No secret seniors prefer to remain in their homes.

What is happening now is an alarming increase of seniors who are treated for concussions and other brain injuries because the initial fall and injury were not addressed. The consequential repeated falls are worse and more severe injuries are sustained. Multiple ER visits and hospitalizations occur. Ironically, the one thing seniors tried to preserve – their independence – may now be lost for good.

Preventions of this undesirable outcome include: Ensure the home is rid of trip hazards, with grab bars in bathrooms and along stairways, lighting is bright and well-directed; Look for unexplained cuts and bruising, insist on visiting the family physician; Periodic eye exams; Engage in strength and balance exercises; Trust your instincts. If you suspect the senior is hiding something, you are probably correct. Have an open and frank talk with the senior and express your concern for their health and well-being. Discuss current living arrangements versus those where more help is always and readily available.

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