Each year, it is estimated that a staggering 646,000 people die from falls globally. In addition, another 37.3 million falls cause injuries severe enough to require medical attention. To put that into perspective, more people are injured and killed in falls every year than the total population of Canada!
And one of the most common injuries sustained in a fall is head trauma. With March being National Brain Injury Month, this is the perfect time to examine the most frequent causes of falls and focus on eliminating not only the potential pain and suffering, but also the huge medical bills associated with care after a fall. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that injuries resulting from falls cost the U.S. healthcare system $34 billion in 2013 alone.
Recognizing Brain Injury
Every person should understand how serious head trauma is and know how to recognize the signs of a brain injury. The definition of a traumatic brain injury (TBI) is when an external force causes brain dysfunction. In many cases, this force is exerted when a person falls and the head hits the ground. Sadly, many people overlook or don’t recognize the symptoms of TBI, which can include:
- Loss of consciousness for a few seconds or up to a few minutes
- Feeling of being disoriented, dazed, or confused
- Vomiting or nausea
- Slurred speech or difficulty speaking
- Fatigue or feeling overly drowsy
- Blurred vision
- Ringing in the ears
- New or unusual sensitivity to light or sound
All of these symptoms indicate at least a mild traumatic brain injury and require immediate medical attention. It is also important to know that these symptoms might not appear immediately and can begin a few days after the fall. Any injury to the head should be taken very seriously, as even mild trauma can result in long-term effects.
Preventing Falls in Your Home
The simple truth is that most falls happen in everyday situations, not while mountain-climbing or some other daredevil activity. Falls at home can usually be prevented by investing a short amount of time and following a few simple tips:
- Eliminate tripping hazards. It’s not uncommon for clutter to build up during a busy week. Items that belong upstairs are left on the steps but forgotten there. Bags and boxes are left near a back door to make their way to the trash on your next trip. But all too often, your hands are already full and you vow to take those items “next time.” These piles then slip from your mind until you catch a foot on one of them and land on the ground. The solution? Stop creating “to do” piles, or simply take five minutes to complete the journey of your “to do” piles. Either way, your home will be much safer and you eliminate that particular fall hazard.
- Eliminate slipping hazards. Just as you eliminated tripping hazards, you should eliminate potential slipping hazards as best you can. If you use rugs, take the time to add adhesive to the backs of the rugs to be certain they are secure. Or even eliminate area rugs completely, which will save you time and effort washing them and worrying about the danger they could represent. Areas with water pose an increased risk of slipping. Place non-slip bath mats outside your shower or bathtub to reduce the slipping risk. Also, don’t forget to address the slip hazard inside your tub or shower. For just a few dollars you can place a non-slip bath mat inside your shower or tub. Water can also easily splash from a sink or a washing machine, so consider a non-slip mat there as well. A good, absorbent non-slip rug or welcome mat at each outside door for drying wet shoes eliminates another potential slipping hazard. And finally, be diligent if there is an accidental spill. Wipe it up immediately.
- Install safety rails. It only takes a second of distraction or loss of balance to take a tumble on even one or two small steps. Adding handrails to all steps in your home as well as outdoors is a simple way to lessen the potential for a serious injury. The other great use for safety rails is in the bathroom. There is a reason you see safety rails in almost every hotel bathroom in the country. They are a simple way to eliminate a huge number of falls and injuries. Why shouldn’t your home be as safe as a hotel?
- Apply a little common sense. Again, busy lives mean that we all spend a large part of our day rushing to complete tasks. But you should never be in too big a hurry to be safe. Don’t walk into a dark room to retrieve something and risk a fall. Don’t balance precariously on a chair while straining to reach something in a top cabinet. Don’t scurry to the next room in stockinged feet just to save a few seconds. Turn on lights, wear appropriate footwear, and store frequently used items where they are easily and safely accessible.
Preventing Falls Outside the Home
We all have much less control over public areas than we do at home, but there are a few simple ways to decrease your chances of suffering a nasty fall when you are away from home.
- Avoid large crowds. This will allow a pedestrian to see changes in the walking surface or changes in elevation, which could be a tripping hazard.
- Pay attention to your surroundings. Modern technology is helpful when it comes to multitasking, but your full attention could be required when walking in an unfamiliar area.
- Be attentive to cars, trucks, and bicycles that are near, as the operator might not be watching for pedestrians.
- Don’t rush. Walking at a hurried pace is a leading cause of falls from unseen objects, curbs, holes, cracks, or simply overexertion.
Know Who You Can Count on When an Accident Does Occur
If you or a loved one suffers a head injury due to a fall on another person’s property, is critical that you get medical treatment right away. Afterward, the property owner’s insurance may be responsible for covering your medical bills. The best way to see if you have a legal case is by contacting a New Jersey slip-and-fall head injury attorney. One simple call to Lependorf & Silverstein, P.C., at (609) 240-0040 will get you a free consultation. If you hire us, you’ll have an experienced team of legal professionals working to protect your best interests, and we only charge if we get you compensation.