CYPRESS, TEXAS (September 27, 2017)

You may be surprised to learn falls, not motor vehicle crashes or gunshot wounds, are the number one reason people are taken to Memorial Hermann Red Duke Trauma Institute, the busiest Level I trauma center in the country. In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, damage and debris left behind from the storm and cleanup efforts underway have put people at a higher risk of having a fall.

“The storm has displaced many into unfamiliar living situations with friends, family, new apartments or shelters. For those in homes, the storm created a lot of work that we’re not used to doing, such as repairs or debris removal that require climbing up on ladders or onto roofs, and using chainsaws and other tools that can cause injury if not used properly. All of these situations put people at a higher risk for injury or falls,” said Sasha Adams, M.D., a trauma surgeon with the Memorial Hermann Red Duke Trauma Institute and McGovern Medical School at UTHealth. “We have had a lot of people coming in to see us recently following falls related to the cleanup.”

Unfortunately, falls are a problem year round, not just during times of disaster. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), every second of every day in the United States an older adult falls. Falls are the number one cause of injuries and deaths from injury among older Americans.

Dr. Adams offers these tips to help reduce the risk for falls around the house:

  • Remove clutter, electrical cords, throw rugs and anything else that might cause someone to trip
  • Arrange furniture so there is plenty of room for walking
  • Wipe up spills immediately
  • Wear proper footwear inside the house to avoid slipping
  • Make sure outdoor areas are well lit and walkways are smooth and free from debris
  • Use non-slip adhesive strips on stairs
  • Use non-skid mats in the bath and shower
  • Install grab bars in the tub, shower and near the toilet
  • Install railings on both sides of stairs
  • Provide adequate lighting in every room and stairway
  • Place nightlights in hallways and around stairs
  • Make often-used items more accessible to avoid using a ladder or step stool
  • If necessary, consider a cane or walker to aid in stability

Dr. Adams stresses that beyond the tips listed above, it is important for older adults to make sure they are keeping bones healthy and engaging in exercise programs that focus on tone, balance and leg strength. Annual eye exams and regular medication reviews are important as well.

Fall Prevention Awareness Week is Sept. 22-28. Dr. Adams encourages everyone to consider ways to reduce the risk of falls. “Talk to your doctor or a physical therapist about a fall risk assessment and if you haven’t already, start an appropriate exercise plan,” said Dr. Adams. “In addition, the Memorial Hermann injury prevention team and Red Duke Trauma Institute partners with a number of community organizations to offer educational programs and fall risk screenings to older adults in the Houston area.”