U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has made a lot of headlines, but her recent trip to the hospital for three broken ribs has people across the country broadcasting healing waves and well-wishes. Ginsburg, 85, was admitted to the hospital late last week after an examination revealed three broken ribs—the result of a fall in her office. Falls are one of the most common causes on injury in people over 65 and they can cause far more significant damage than falls in younger people.
Broken bones are not only more common in older adults; they can have far more long-lasting effects. A recent study from Denmark found that the risk of death rises by 25% for a full year following a broken bone and stays elevated for as long as ten years. There is something of a ripple effect for older adults with broken bones, which may have to do with their overall condition. Fractures in the elderly are more likely to require surgery, which in turn leads to anesthesia, a hospital stay, and prolonged recovery time—not to mention how difficult it is to regain normal range of motion or mobility after a break.
The recovery from a serious fall can often be more dangerous than the injuries sustained from it. Once an older adult is confined to bed, a whole host of problems can arise, specifically pneumonia and COPD. Lack of movement is very hard on the lungs and patients with preexisting lung conditions are at the greatest risk.
There are, however, some simple things you can do to reduce the risk of falls in your home and make daily living much safer. Fall-proofing your home will substantially reduce the odds of an accident that could lead to broken bones or other serious injury.
Clear your space – A messy or disorganized home is an accident waiting to happen. Even if you have to call in for outside help with daily cleanup, keeping your floors free of clutter can drastically reduce the risk of taking a tumble.
Light the way – Late night bathroom breaks through dark hallways can lead to a misstep. Make sure that your home has adequate lighting that’s easily accessible. Smart technology has made it easy to light your home with only your voice and installing nightlights in dark areas can make your nightly strolls that much safer.
Skip the slip – Reducing slipping hazards is a smart way to stay off the floor. Start with your feet—wear shoes or slippers with gripping soles—if you prefer socks make sure they are non-skid. Keep an eye on slippery surfaces such as the shower or tile floors. Install mats to help keep you steady on hard floors and tub grips to help you stay upright in the shower.
Tack it down – Loose carpeting can be just as dangerous as a slippery tile. If your carpets have curling edges or are lying unanchored over a wooden floor take the time to do some home repair and make sure every step is secure.