Shakita Johnson has spent over 15 years working with older adults in Tarrant County.
As a licensed social worker, she’s seen countless adults age 65 and older sustain serious fall-related injuries.
In recent years, Johnson, who now serves as executive director of the Area Agency on Aging of Tarrant County, has seen an uptick in falls.
As of September 2023, 6,436 older adults in Tarrant County had contacted MedStar requesting emergency medical services after falling in various locations, including homes, apartments and assisted-living facilities.
Following the COVID-19 pandemic, the risk of falls among older adults increased because of a lack of activity, Johnson said.
“There was an opportunity for a lot of older adults to get out of their homes and walk around to different places, but the fear of contracting COVID-19 led a lot of them to stay inside,” she said. “That’s less physical activity, which also feeds into getting weaker and losing strength.”
As a result of older adults losing strength after the pandemic, MedStar experienced a rise in calls in 2021. That year, the EMS provider received 16,413 fall-related calls — an average of 45 calls per day.
Number of fall-related calls MedStar received in the past three years:
- 2022: 14,928; 40.8 per day
- 2021: 16,413; 45 per day
- 2020: 15,407; 42.2 per day
(Source | MedStar)
Since then, fall-related calls have decreased, but they still occur frequently among older adults in Tarrant County. One out of five falls can cause a serious injury, such as broken bones or a head injury, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Here is what older Tarrant County residents can do to reduce the risk of falls:
Look at the environment in your home
For older adults living alone, it’s important to look around your home and remove any clutter or misplaced furniture. This opens up more space to walk. If possible, install handrails and grab bars along indoor and outdoor staircases and hallways.
While having a pet can improve overall mental health, safeguards may be needed to minimize fall risks. Make sure to watch for pet toys and supplies on the floor, and clean up water and food bowl spills to avoid slips. Enrolling dogs in obedience training can teach them to refrain from tugging on leashes or jumping on older adults who are standing.
“Having all of those things decreases a person’s risk of falling and having an accident,” Johnson said. “Be open to the idea of rearranging some things so it’s easier for you now.”
Get your vision regularly checked
If you are having trouble with your eyesight, it’s time for a checkup and an adjustment to your prescription.
If you also have a hard time seeing at night, improve the lighting in your home. Installing night lights, especially in restrooms, hallways and open spaces, can help, said Wendy Li, franchise owner of Seniors Helping Seniors – North Tarrant.
Review your medications’ side effects
It’s important to consider the medications you are taking. A lot of medications have side effects that can affect a person’s balance. It’s also important to pay attention to the time of day medicines are being consumed, so you know when you can expect to experience dizziness.
If you have concerns about your medication, talk to your doctor about alternatives that don’t cause dizziness or disorientation.
Build up your physical strength
There are physical activities you can do to stay active in your home, including balance exercises, stretches and walks.
Tarrant County also offers free adult activity centers for residents 65 years and older.
For older residents without transportation, Fort Worth partners with Meals on Wheels to provide free transportation to and from these activity centers. Community centers with Best Years Clubs provide transportation as well.
Click here to find an adult activity center near you or your loved ones.
“Getting out of the home, into the environment and engaging externally is just as important,” Johnson said. “You don’t have to run a marathon, but just force yourself to stay active.”
At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.