Are you an older driver who has fallen in the past year or so? Do you find yourself losing your balance more than you have in the past? For adult children, have you noticed more trips or falls in your aging parent? Has your loved one recently stumbled or tripped in their home? Are they still driving? If so, this article is for you!
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reports that one out of three older adults (those aged 65 or older) fall each year. And the Journals of Gerontology further reports that half of those persons actually have multiple falls.
Recent research has established a definite correlation between falls and older driver crash involvement. According to an article published by the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, older adults that have fallen two or more times in the previous year may be at a higher risk of being involved in an at-fault car crash.
The study, conducted by the Department of Ophthalmology, School of Medicine, and the School of Public Health at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, also reported that older drivers who fell two or more times in the prior year were 1.5 times as likely to be involved in an accident and two times as likely to be involved in an at-fault accident.
The study’s bottom line; a history of frequent falling can serve as a valid indicator in identifying older drivers that are at a higher risk for future traffic accidents. That’s pretty significant!
Fortunately, falling is NOT an inevitable part of the aging process as falls can be prevented. In loose translation, that could mean that by preventing falls, we could ultimately prevent automobile accidents involving older drivers.
The CDC has developed the following tips to help older adults stay independent and reduce their chances of falling:
• Exercise regularly. It is important that the exercises focus on increasing leg strength and improving balance, and that they get more challenging over time. Tai Chi programs are especially good.
• Ask a doctor or pharmacist to review current medications (both prescription and over-the counter) to identify medicines that may cause side effects or interactions such as dizziness or drowsiness.
• Have your loved-one’s eyes checked by an eye doctor at least once a year and update their eyeglasses to maximize their vision.
• Make the home safer by reducing tripping hazards, adding grab bars inside and outside the tub or shower and next to the toilet, adding railings on both sides of stairways, and improving lighting in the home.
Other helpful tips are available from the CDC’s website at cdc.gov.
Trauma surgeon and researcher Julius Cheng, M.D., of the University of Rochester Medical Center, may have said it best when he commented “Instead of just treating falls as they happen, the focus should be on what we can do to help older people avoid them in the first place.” I wonder if he was also thinking of preventing automobile accidents when he offered that single piece of advice.
Submitted by Matt Gurwell, founder of Keeping Us Safe, LLC. Matt works with older drivers to help them determine whether they are still safe drivers. Visit his website at www.keepingussafe.org to learn more about their Enhanced Self-Assessment Program, designed specifically for senior drivers, or to schedule a presentation for your group, business, or organization.