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Preventing falls for the elderly

One in every three Americans suffers a fall each year. Falls can result in hip fractures, broken bones, severe head injuries, and death. These injuries are much more likely in the elderly who may even become fearful of daily activities such as shopping or going to church. Such isolation can precipitate depression.

Falls can occur for several reasons. Inactivity and a loss of flexibility, coordination and balance due to aging or some other illness or injury can make falls more likely. As people age, less light reaches the retina and light is often diffused because of cataracts, making it more difficult to see contrasting edges or trip hazards. Both prescriptions and over-the-counter medications may result in dizziness or dehydration or interact badly with one another.

A fall can result at any age. Because the physiological reserves are narrower and drug elimination may take longer in many elderly, the elderly are more at risk. Modifications necessary for safety in the environment may not be readily perceived by the elderly person who has long years of familiarity with the previous arrangement. Chronic illnesses such as stroke, diabetes, and arthritis may increase the risk of falling. They can result in inactivity, loss of function, depression, or pain, requiring multiple medications.

What modifications could be made by your church to address these factors? Some hints may be gleaned from the next "teach-in" article on preventing falls.

Submitted by the Rev. Marie Butterbaugh, chairman, diocesan Commission on Affirmative Aging. She may be reached at St. John's Episcopal Church, 401 Live Oak Avenue, Pensacola, FL 32507,, or (850) 453-9076.


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