In the United States each year, trauma injuries account for 41 million emergency department visits and 2.3 million hospital admissions. Seniors are most vulnerable; every 13 seconds, an older adult is treated in the emergency room for a fall.
“Safe Steps for Seniors” is the 2016 theme of National Trauma Awareness Month, in May. This project focuses on senior safety, particularly fall prevention. Falls can hinder an older adult’s safety and independence, but they are not inevitable. Seniors can help prevent falls by doing the following:
- Participate in regular physical activity. Exercise makes you stronger, increases flexibility and improves balance and coordination.
- Remove hazards in your home. Make sure your path is clear and remove items that may cause you to trip such as rugs, cords and wires, books and shoes. Keep stairs clear of clutter and install handrails.
- Review your medications regularly. Have your physician or pharmacist look at all of the medications you take, including over-the-counter medicines. Make sure the side effects or interactions with other medications are not increasing your chance of falling. Many medicines can make you sleepy or dizzy.
- Have your vision and hearing checked once a year. Poor vision and not being able to hear can increase your chance of falling.
- Talk to your family members and enlist their help. Family support is important for a senior’s safety.
Mary-Margaret Brandt, MD, MHSA is a surgeon and the Trauma Medical Director at St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor. She is the vice-chair of the Michigan Committee on Trauma, and is an active member of the ATLS subcommittee of the American College of Surgeons Committee on Trauma. In 2013, Dr. Brandt retired from the United States Army Reserve as a Colonel.