Falls Prevention and Awareness
Categories: Living with Brain Injury
September is National Falls Prevention Awareness Month. The Brain Injury Association of America (BIAA) supports efforts to spread knowledge about the danger of falls and how we can work to prevent them. Falls lead to nearly half of TBI-related hospitalizations, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Falls can affect individuals of all ages and may happen at any time. Unlike other causes of brain injury, such as combat, motor vehicle accidents, and near drowning, falls are not restricted to specific environments. This makes them particularly dangerous.
The following article explores how you can reduce the risk of falling, including making lifestyle changes and adjustments to your home.
What types of brain injuries can occur from a fall?
- Mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI), also known as a concussion – A concussion is caused when the brain receives trauma from an impact or a sudden momentum or movement change. Concussions can cause the person to have dizziness, headaches, blurred vision, and nausea, among other symptoms.
- Contusion – A contusion is a bruise on the brain caused by something striking the head, which can cause bleeding and swelling in the brain.
- Penetrating injury, also known as an open head injury – A penetrating injury occurs from the impact of a sharp object that forces hair, skin, bone, and fragments from the object into the brain.
- Closed head injury – A closed head injury occurs when an outside force hits the head without any penetration of the skull. The force of the injury often causes the brain to swell. Since the brain has nowhere to expand, it can lead to increased pressure within the skull. As the brain swells, it may expand through any available opening in the skull, leading to medical complications.
How can you prevent falls through lifestyle changes?
- Stay physically active – Exercising and moving regularly strengthens your muscles and also helps to keep your body parts flexible, which will minimize the risk of both falling and being injured by a fall.
- Get your sight and hearing regularly checked – Vision and hearing are essential in knowing what is going on around you. Any vision or hearing loss can greatly increase your risk of falling. Be sure to get your eyes and ears checked regularly by a healthcare professional.
- Review the side effects of the medications that you take with your doctor – Some medications can cause dizziness, drowsiness, and other symptoms that increase your likelihood of falling. Speak with your doctor to ensure you know all the side effects of your medication and ask about alternative options if you have concerns.
- Check your Vitamin D levels – A recent study found that a daily dose of vitamin D can reduce the risk of falls in older adults by 19%.
- Wear appropriate footwear – Wearing shoes that are uncomfortable, don’t fit correctly, or that are not suitable for your environment greatly increases your chances of falling.
- Evaluate your risk with a doctor – Some people are more prone to falling than others. Age, medication, and preexisting conditions are just some of the factors that can increase risk. Talk to your doctor about your unique situation to learn about potential risk factors and what steps you can take to decrease your chances of sustaining a brain injury as the result of a fall.
How can you prevent falls in the home?
- Avoid uneven surfaces – Be aware of any places in your home where there is uneven flooring. If possible, replace flooring altogether. Keep your walkways clear of clutter and wires.
- Install bars or railings – Adding supports to areas in your home where falls are common, such as stairs and bathtubs, can reduce the risk of falling and sustaining a brain injury.
- Ensure you have adequate lighting – A simple way prevent falls in your home is to have ample lighting. Make sure that you have easily accessible light switches and bright light in all the rooms in your house.
- Avoid using ladders and stepstools – Ladders and stepstools present opportunities for injury. If you are at particularly high risk of falling or can adapt a task, try to avoid using these items. Alternatively, ask a friend or relative to spot you, or hire an expert.
Making small adjustments in your daily life and taking the proper precautions can prevent you from sustaining a brain injury as the result of a fall. Falls occur in all population segments and can occur in any situation. It is important to remain cognizant of the risks this September during National Falls Prevention Awareness Month and all year.
For more information on falls and fall prevention, check out the resources below:
- BIAA’s Falls and Traumatic Brain Injury Brochure
- CDC Falls Facts and Prevention Tips
- CDC STEADI Tools and Education Materials
- National Council on Aging National Falls Prevention Resource Center
- National Council on Aging Falls Prevention Awareness Day