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Falling Down Goes Up With Age

Seniors Are More Susceptible To Taking A Fall

In the U.S., falls are the leading cause of injuries in people 65 years old and up. Understandably, accidents and health conditions are the leading culprits. What's really surprising is that most of the falls occur at home, while performing common activities.

What causes the falls? Balance can be affected by medications, alcohol, heart disease, low blood pressure or arthritis. Poor eyesight and hearing, decreased coordination and strength, slower reflexes and other disabilities can be factors. Within the household, worn carpets, newly positioned furniture, clutter on the floor, poor lighting, electric wires, stairs and wet floors can lead to trouble.

Fortunately most falls are minor and result in a quick recovery. But the severity of injury increases with age with the most common injuries being head traumas and fractures to the hip, wrist and spine. Even when there is no physical injury, there can be a dramatic affect on the senior and their family. Fear of future falls can decrease confidence, which can lead to less independence and social life.

Stairways in the home of a senior can be a hazard. Make sure there are sturdy handrails on both sides, the steps are clear, the surface is in good condition and the lighting is bright.

Statistics & What To Do

Statistics

  • Each year about 30% of the seniors over the age of 65 take a fall.
  • Each year at least 250,000 hip fractures in the elderly are treated in U.S. hospitals with 95% the result of falling, usually sideways.
  • 1 in 4 women over the age of 90 has fallen and fractured their hip. For men, it is 1 in 8.
  • In the U.S., the overall cost of treating the injuries caused by falling is in the area of $34 billion per year (2013).
  • Hip fractures make up the majority of the cost because they are so numerous and cost about $35,000 per person.

How To Respond To A Fall

  • DON'T PANIC. This could lead to inaction, improper action and increased injury.
  • Assess if you are hurt, what your mobility is and what your options are.
  • Try to get up. There is a good chance your balance and confidence will be shaken, so ask someone for help and support.
  • If alone, crawl over to the nearest chair, couch or stable piece of furniture and use it to support your effort to get up.
  • If you can't get up, crawl to a telephone, pull it to the floor and call for help.
  • If the above suggestions are not possible, stay calm and call out for help.
(Sources: Amer. Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, CDC)