Oftentimes when we think about serious health conditions that affect the elderly, falls may not be at the top of the list. Yet, statistics show that one in three older Americans fall each year, making falls the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries in people age 65 and older.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), elderly slip and fall injuries result in 2.3 million emergency visits per year, plus $31 million in Medicare costs. These estimates may be low, considering that at-home injuries may be significantly under-reported for this demographic.
As the Baby Boomer generation reaches retirement age, fall-related injuries are expected to increase. If you’re a concerned family member assisting a spouse or elderly relative, here’s what you should know about how slips and falls differ for seniors.
Many Injuries Occur at Home
For many adults, a slip and fall injury may have occurred at the workplace or on slippery pavement in a poorly lit parking lot. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), slip and fall injuries are the top cause of at-home injuries for seniors.
Whether the injury is due to a frayed rug, an individual’s decreasing vision or stairs that can no longer be climbed independently, some seniors are reluctant to address the issue – or admit they fell in the first place. As such, a fall in the home may soon lead to depression, isolation and confinement to the house.
More Serious Injuries
No matter where the slip or fall happens, elderly injuries result in more hospitalizations and long-term nursing or home care. Seniors may experience a hip fracture, broken bones or a head injury:
- According to the CDC, anywhere from 20 to 30 percent of elderly fall injuries are moderate to severe.
- 87 percent of fractures experienced can be traced back to a fall. More than half of this group fall again less than a year later.
- Among older adults, fall-related injuries typically result in a longer hospital stay – almost twice the time on average.
- For those under 70, your chances of a hip fracture from a fall are one in 200. This figure increases to one in 10 for those 85 years and older.
- Slip and fall injuries may require an older adult to need assistance when getting up. Because of the greater time now spent immobile, muscle cells start to break down and there is a greater chance of pressure sores, hypothermia, pneumonia or dehydration.
- The older you get, the greater chance you have of falling. More than half of seniors 80 and older experience at least one fall per year.
Wider Range of Fall Risks
Many adults believe if their environments are safe and they take precautions, slip and fall injuries can be avoided. For seniors, injuries can be attributed to a range of sources:
- Less balance: As you age, your coordination and flexibility decrease, with inactivity often exacerbating your physical condition.
- Decreased vision – As you grow older, less light reaches your eye’s retina. As a result, contrasts and obstacles become less clear.
- Medications – The average senior takes multiple medications. Alone or through a combined effect, they may cause dizziness, weakness or dehydration, leading to a potential fall injury.
- Health conditions – Seniors with certain physical conditions are more prone to falls, including diabetes, arthritis, a stroke or dementia.
- The home – Due to the issues listed above, your home may present more hazards. A wet floor, bunched-up rug, coffee table corner or stairs may cause a fall.
What You Can Do
Aside from making modifications to the home, addressing health issues can reduce your fall risks:
- Always tell your doctor about a recent fall injury.
- Discuss all medications you currently take with your doctor and pharmacist, including side effects and possible interactions.
- Have your eyes checked at least once per year and your eyeglasses updated if your prescription changes.
- Get physical activity, especially if it encourages balance and strength.
Has your loved one recently experienced a slip and fall injury – either on someone’s poorly maintained premises or in a nursing home? As he or she recovers from the resulting injuries, work with Trantolo & Trantolo to hold the other party responsible. To speak with an attorney, give us a call today.