Falling down is a serious problem for senior citizens. For seniors, 65 years and older, one out of three falls each year. Half of these fall more than once. Seniors fall more often with each decade of life. Women are more likely to fall than men, but men are more likely to sustain a fatal fall injury. These statistics refer to individuals living in the community, not nursing homes.
So says, Adnan Arseven, MD, AGSF, Division of Internal Medicine and Geriatrics at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, speaking before the hospital’s Healthy Transitions Program®.
Dr. Arseven defined falling as “coming to rest inadvertently on the ground or at a lower level.” This is not as a result of loss of consciousness or hazardous conditions, like slipping on ice.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC, said, “Among older adults (those 65 or older), falls are the leading cause of injury death. They are also the most common cause of nonfatal injuries and hospital admissions for trauma.
“In 2010, 2.3 million nonfatal fall injuries among older adults were treated in emergency departments and more than 662,000 of these patients were hospitalized.
“In 2010, the direct medical costs of falls, adjusted for inflation, was $30.0 billion.”
What outcomes are linked to falls?
• Twenty to thirty percent of people who fall suffer moderate to severe injuries such as lacerations, hip fractures, or head traumas. These injuries can make it hard to get around or live independently, and increase the risk of early death.
• Falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries (TBI). In 2000, TBI accounted for 46 percent of fatal falls among older adults.
• Most fractures among older adults are caused by falls. The most common are fractures of the spine, hip, forearm, leg, ankle, pelvis, upper arm and hand.
• Many people who fall, even if they are not injured, develop a fear of falling. This fear may cause them to limit their activities, which leads to reduced mobility and loss of physical fitness, and in turn increases their actual risk of falling.
• The death rates from falls among older men and women have risen sharply over the past decade.
• In 2009, about 20,400 older adults died from unintentional fall injuries.
• Men are more likely than women to die from a fall. After taking age into account, the fall death rate in 2009 was 34 percent higher for men than for women.