Adults over 65 are at increased risk for many types of injuries. Injuries among this age group can have devastating consequences, leading in some cases to disability, loss of independence and even death. Below is a list of injury topics of special concern to older adults and their caregivers with tips for prevention and links for more information.

Massachusetts Statistics

  • In 2006 there were 757 unintentional injury deaths among MA residents 65 years and over. The leading causes of these deaths were: falls (N-340), suffocation/choking (N=77), and motor-vehicle occupant-related injuries (N= 68)
  • In FY2006, there were over 26,000 nonfatal unintentional injury-related hospital stays, an average of 71 each day-among residents 65 years and older.
  • Falls, the most common cause of injury death, hospitalization and emergency department visits in the adults over age 65 years, can be associated with hip fractures, traumatic brain injuries, and other serious injuries. MA residents age 65 years and over have the highest rates of traumatic brain injury-related (TBI) death and inpatient hospitalizations, compared with other age groups; the leading cause of these TBI's is a fall.

Prevention Tips

Falls

Falls are linked to death and injury in all age groups, but older adults are particularly vulnerable. Falls are the leading cause of unintentional injury death for men and women 65 and older in Massachusetts and account for nearly one-third of unintentional injury deaths for this population. Risk factors include increasing age, decreased activity and strength, poor balance, impaired vision, osteoporosis, dementia, and multiple medications and illnesses. However, many of these falls can be prevented by making changes in the physical environment such as reducing household hazards, beginning an exercise program to improve balance and strength, and having regular health screenings to monitor medications and changes in vision.
 

Exercise

Exercise regularly to build strength and improve balance and coordination. Ask your doctor about the best exercise for you.

Home Modification

  • Keep stairs and walkways clear of clutter and phone and electrical cords.
  • Use non-slip mats in the tub/shower. Install grab bars in tub and near toilet.
  • Use only throw rugs with rubber, nonskid backing.
  • Make sure stairways are well lit from both top and bottom. Have easy-to-grip handrails on both sides of the whole staircase.
  • Wear sturdy, well-fitted, low-heeled shoes with non-slip soles. These are safer than high-heels, thick-soled athletic shoes, slippers or stocking feet.
  • Take your time. Being rushed or distracted greatly increases your chance of falling. Get your balance when first standing up.

Medication Safety

  • Read and save all written information that comes with the medicine.
  • Make a list of all the medicines you take. Show it to all your health care providers. Keep one copy in your medicine cabinet and one in your wallet or pocketbook.
  • Take your medicine in the exact amount and at the time your doctor prescribes.
  • Call your doctor right away if you have any problems with your medicine or if you are worried that the medicine might be doing more harm than good. Your doctor may be able to change your medicine to a different one that will work better for you.
  • Use a memory aid to take your medicines on time. Some types of reminders are meal times, bedtime, charts, calendars, and weekly pill boxes.
  • Do not skip doses of medicine or take half doses to save money. Talk with your doctor or pharmacist if you cannot afford the prescribed medicine. There may be less costly choices or special programs to help with the cost of certain drugs.
  • Take your medicine until it is finished or until your doctor says it is okay to stop.
  • Don't take medicine in the dark. To avoid making a mistake, turn your light on before reaching for your pills.
  • Check the expiration dates on your medicine bottles and throw away outdated medicines.

Vision

See an eye specialist once a year. Poor vision can increase your chance of falling. Improve the lighting in your home. Install a night light between the bedroom and bathroom. Turn on the lights before using the stairs.

Related Links

For More Information

To learn more about safety for older adults, please contact us.


This information is provided by the Injury Prevention and Control Program within the Department of Public Health.