Preventing Elderly Falls, Stemming Need for Trauma Recovery Care

On an annual basis, one in every three adults age 65 and older will fall. These falls can cause moderate to severe injuries, such as hip fractures and head traumas, and can increase the risk of early death and the need for trauma recovery care.

Here are some stats that indicate how serious the problem is: Among adults 65 or older falling is the leading cause of injury death. Falls are also the most common cause of nonfatal injuries and hospital admissions for trauma recovery care. In 2009, for example, 2.2 million nonfatal fall injuries among older adults were treated in emergency departments and more than 581,000 of these patients were hospitalized.

Furthermore, the chances of falling and of being seriously injured in a fall increase with age. In 2009, the rate of fall injuries for adults 85 and older was almost four times that for adults 65 to 74.3. People age 75 and older who fall are four to five times more likely than those age 65 to 74 to be admitted to a long-term care facility for a year or longer. Women are more likely than men to be injured in a fall. In 2009, women were 58% more likely than men to suffer a nonfatal fall injury. And rates of fall-related fractures among older women are more than twice those for men. (Based on statistics from the Centers of Disease)

But luckily falls are largely preventable. What can you do to prevent against falling as you get older and prevent the need for trauma recovery care? Here are some tips:

  • Be sure to exercise regularly, with a focus on increasing leg strength and improving balance. Exercises should get more challenging over time.
  • Ask your doctor or pharmacist to review all your medicines, including prescription and over-the counter, to determine if any of them may cause side effects or interactions such as dizziness or drowsiness.
  • Go for an eye check-up at least once a year and update your eyeglasses to maximize their vision. Consider getting a pair with single vision distance lenses for activities such as walking outside.
  • Safe-proof your home – reduce tripping hazards, add grab bars inside and outside the tub or shower and next to the toilet, add stair railings and improve the lighting in their homes.
  • Lower hip fracture risk, by getting adequate calcium and vitamin D—from food and/or from supplements; perform weight-bearing exercise; and get screened and treated for osteoporosis.