KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Staff at the UT Medical Center report falls are the number one cause of injury-related death in older people. They say every year one out of four people suffers a fall and one out of five people will suffer very serious injuries because of that fall.
Because of those numbers, Debi Tuggle, who serves as UT Medical Center's injury prevention coordinator, said staff are trying to raise awareness on this issue. She shared many falls can actually be prevented, so here are some easy tips you can follow to avoid serious falls as much as possible:
1. Talk to your physician so you can figure out how at-risk you are of having a serious fall.
2. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about the medications you take.
"There are many, many medications out there that can contribute to a fall by making you drowsy, by making you dizzy, by making your blood pressure drop," Tuggle explained. "And it is always important to take your medications as prescribed."
3. Make your home safe space, which includes keeping rugs and clutter out of the way, having well-lit areas, having grab bars in the bathroom, and keeping things at a safe reaching distance in your kitchen.
4. Find a good exercise and balance class. Improving your balance and flexibility can reduce the risk of falls.
5. Have your vision and hearing checked regularly.
6. Avoid getting on ladders as much as possible, especially during the fall season.
"Falls from ladders are particularly dangerous this time of year," Tuggle commented. "Many, many people are trying to clean their gutters of leaves that have accumulated and it simply takes one misstep and you have fallen from a height. Now you have gotten a broken bone or a head injury or you are laying unconscious with no one even aware that you fell. So, leave the cleaning of the gutters up to the professionals or ask someone to help."
7. Raise awareness in your family and neighborhood.
Serious injuries from falls can also have a taxing effect on the healthcare system. About 800,000 people are hospitalized because of a fall injury every year in the county.
Tuggle added that the financial burden to Medicare and Medicaid in 2020 was $674 billion from fall-related injuries. Tennessee is actually one of the top five states in the U.S. in per capita cost for fall injuries to Medicare and Medicaid.