Falls are the leading cause of injury-related deaths among seniors 65 years of age and older. Falls are also the leading cause of non-fatal injuries for seniors, threatening their independence, mobility, and safety. Staggering statistics related to falls among seniors makes senior fall prevention a priority for seniors and the loved ones of seniors. Many agencies and organizations, along with medical alert system providers, recognize the need for awareness, education and the need for prevention programs and strategies to reduce risk of falls in seniors.
Senior Fall Facts & Statistics
Although people of all ages experience falls, seniors are at particular risk of falls, including falls that result in potentially serious, even life-altering injuries. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that one in four seniors experiences at least one fall every year. One in five falls among seniors result in serious injuries, such as broken bones or head injuries. Other statistics related to falls among seniors show that more than three million seniors receive treatment at emergency departments every year due to a fall and that 800,000 individuals are admitted to the hospital after experiencing a fall.
Age Plays a Significant Role
Advancing age plays a significant role in falls among seniors. Seniors that are 75 years of age and older that fall are five times more likely to be admitted to a long-term care facility for at least a year, compared to younger seniors, aged 65 through 74 years of age.
Types of Injuries From Falls
Men are more likely to die from a fall, compared to a woman that experiences a fatal fall. MedicineNet explains that in 1999, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun died after complications from hip surgery due to a fall at home. The fall and subsequent death of the 90-year-old Supreme Court Justice is just one example of how advancing age potentially contributes to a greater risk of serious injury among seniors that experience a fall. Up to 30% of seniors that fall experience a hip fracture, hip lacerations or head trauma. In fact, falls are the most-common cause of traumatic brain injuries (TBI).
Falls account for the majority of all fractures occurring in the senior population. Examples of these fractures, in addition to hip fractures, include fractures of the:
- Upper arms
Reasons That Seniors Are at Risk of Falls
There are several reasons that contribute to the high numbers of seniors that fall.
Difficulties with balance, walking and lower body weakness increase the risk of falling. Gait and balance changes due to the aging process are not the only ways that this issue increases the risk of falling. Certain medical conditions that affect gait and balance, such as Parkinson’s disease increase the risk of falling. Osteoporosis, the thinning of bone tissue and loss of bone density increases the risk of a fall resulting in a hip fracture. Disorders of the spine, including sciatica and spinal stenosis also potentially increase the risk of seniors experiencing a fall, as does joint and muscle disorders.
Foot pain and wearing poorly fitting footwear also contribute to senior falls. Other causes include Vitamin D deficiency and side effects of some prescription medications and over-the-counter medications. Falls occur more frequently among seniors with vision issues. There are environmental issues that contribute to falls, such as wet or uneven floors, poor lighting, unstable furniture and hazards such as throw rugs, pets, and steps.
What to Do When a Fall Occurs
Seniors that fall should take specific steps that possibly reduces the risk of further injury. The first step, as hard as it likely sounds, is to not panic. Panicking potentially prevents you from accurately assessing the situation after your fall. If you have a medical alert system follow procedures and make notification right away. Medical alert systems are of great assistance when a fall occurs.
Getting Up After a Fall
If you cannot get up, do not risk further damage or injury by attempting to force yourself to stand. If you decide to try to get up, roll to one side, and then slowly pull yourself up on all fours until you are on your hands and knees. If there is no sturdy object nearby, crawl to a sturdy object. Push on the object with your hands, supporting your body weight with your hands and slowly rise to a sitting position on the steps or sturdy piece of furniture. Remain seated until confident that you can stand.
Visit a Doctor
It is a good idea to always be checked out at your doctor’s office or hospital emergency room when you fall, even if you think you do not have injuries. Many injuries do not exhibit symptoms right away.