Older Adult Falls

Adult daughter hugging older mom

Join us this year on September 22, 2018—Falls Prevention Awareness DayExternal (FPAD)—as CDC joins with the National Council on Aging (NCOA) to increase awareness and to help spread the word about how to prevent fall-related injuries and deaths. FPAD is a great opportunity to share information about resources and strategies and how to prevent falls throughout the year.

Falls are Common

More than one in four older adults fall each year. With more than 10,000 Americans turning 65 each day, falls are a growing and significant public health problem. One of the major risk factors for falls is medications that may change the way a person feels or thinks due to side effects. Because four out of every five older adults take at least one prescription medication daily, and more than one third take five or more each day, this common risk factor for falling demands attention.

Falls are Costly

A recent CDC studyExternal showed that the estimated medical cost of falls across the U.S. healthcare system is $50 billion annually. This includes $38 billion paid by Medicare and Medicaid and $12 billion paid by private and other payers.

Falls are Preventable

Fortunately, a new CDC studyExternal showed that receiving just a single fall intervention, such as Tai Chi, medication management, or home modification could prevent falls and avert medical costs. Doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and other healthcare providers are well skilled at helping older adults assess their fall risk and at determining what may be increasing their fall risk. Because more than 90 percent of older adults see a doctor at least once a year, a regular office visit is a good opportunity to ask about their risk of falling. So, ask your doctor, or loved one’s doctor, to complete a falls risk assessment at an upcoming appointment.

Doctor smiling and talking with mature woman
Ask your healthcare provider about your risk of falling.

What Can I Do Before My Next Doctor’s Visit?

A great first step in checking for fall risk is reading CDC’s Stay Independent Cdc-pdf[1.72 MB] brochure. Answer each of the 12 questions with “yes” or “no” responses and count up the score. If you or a loved one has fallen within the past year, feels unsteady when walking, or worries about falling, this increases the risk of falling. Other factors to consider include lower body strength and balance, other long-term health issues, and medications that cause drowsiness or light-headedness. Take the results of the Stay Independent checklist to your or your loved one’s next medical appointment. The medical staff can help create a personalized fall prevention plan if needed.

Why are Medications a Problem?

Many older Americans take medications for sleep disorders, anxiety, high blood pressure, or chronic pain. Side effects from these drugs can change the way a person feels or thinks and can cause drowsiness, loss of balance, changes in vision, slower reaction time, and other effects that increase the risk of falling. These side effects can increase or even start for the first time, as we get older. Every year, and every time a new medication is added, check with a doctor, pharmacist, or other medical provider to see if medications can be reduced, switched, or even stopped to reduce fall risk.

More Information

Help educate and empower older Americans about the risk of falling.

Page last reviewed: September 21, 2018
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