M.D. Insights

 

Fall and Fracture Prevention

 

Todd Swenning, D.O.

Orthopedic Surgery - Trauma Surgeon

A Physician's Guide to Preventing Falls and Fractures 

Falls are something we see almost every day that greatly affects our patients' well-being. The risk of falls among older adults is a pressing concern. Our weather that encourages outdoor lifestyles can sadly contribute to fall opportunities. Do you need to be concerned? Here's a look at the facts.

Facts About Falls and Seniors in the United States:

  • More than 1 in 4 older adults fall every year.
  • Falls are the leading cause of injury-related death in this age group.
  • More than 95% of hip fractures among seniors are caused by falling, usually by falling sideways.

Let's delve into the impact of falls and practical strategies to prevent falls and fractures.

Causes for Falls Among Seniors  group of people on workout bikes

Understanding medical risk factors, such as impaired musculoskeletal function, cardiovascular issues, depression, arthritis, neurologic conditions and medication side effects, is key to prevention. Personal risk factors like age, lack of exercise, poor habits and diet also contribute. Additionally, environmental factors at home, such as slippery surfaces and poor lighting, play a significant role.

Lifestyle Choices to Prevent Falls 

  • Maintain your health. Have regular eye examinations, annual physicals and a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D.
  • Exercise regularly. Consult your doctor about starting an exercise program that aids agility, strength, balance and coordination.
  • Wear proper footwear. Choose shoes with nonskid soles, avoid high heels and ensure proper shoelace fastening.
  • Home modifications. Proper lighting, removing clutter and securing rugs can help reduce the risk of falls.

Creating a Safe Home Environment in Coachella Valley 

  • Bedroom: Use nonslip materials and install nightlights to clear the path around your bed.
  • Living Areas: Keep pathways clutter-free and well-lit for easy navigation.
  • Kitchen: Maintain a clean, well-lit area and store items within easy reach.
  • Stairs: Install handrails, use nonslip treads and ensure proper lighting.
  • Bathroom: Add slip-resistant rugs, mount grab bars and use nonskid materials in the bathtub.

Understanding Fractures: The Consequences of Falls

Falls can especially have severe consequences for our senior population. One significant outcome is fractures or broken bones. It occurs when a bone is subjected to a force beyond its breaking point, causing cracks, breaks or shattering. Understanding the types of fractures is essential:

  • Stable Fracture – the broken ends of the bone align and are barely out of place
  • Open (Compound) Fracture – the skin may be pierced by the bone, increasing the risk of infection
  • Transverse Fracture – a horizontal fracture line
  • Oblique Fracture – a fracture with an angled pattern
  • Comminuted Fracture – the bone shatters into three or more pieces

Treatment

Timely and appropriate treatment is vital for a successful recovery. Treatment options include:

  • Cast Immobilization – plaster or fiberglass casts are commonly used to reposition and immobilize broken bones to allow healing
  • Functional Cast or Brace – allows limited movement of nearby joints for certain fractures
  • Traction – gentle, steady pulling action to align bones
  • External Fixation – metal pins or screws stabilize the bone externally for proper healing
  • Open Reduction and Internal Fixation – repositioning of bone fragments with screws or metal plates

What To Do If You Fall

Do not panic. Assess your situation, slide or crawl to a stable support and call for help. For those living alone or at high risk, consider a fall alert device.

Preventing falls among seniors in the Coachella Valley is a community effort. By understanding the risks, making healthy lifestyle choices and implementing simple home modifications, we can create an environment where our seniors thrive and enjoy the vibrant lifestyle that Coachella Valley offers.

Let's make Coachella Valley a safer haven for all its residents, especially our cherished seniors.

Stay safe, stay well.