More information about falls and prevention from Mercy Medical Center
Falls Among Older Adults:
Each year, one in every three adults age 65
and older falls. Falls can cause moderate to severe injuries, such as hip
fractures and head injuries, and can increase the risk of early death.
Fortunately, falls are a public health problem that is largely preventable.
How big is the problem?
One out of three adults
age 65 and older falls each year,1
but less than half talk to their healthcare providers about it.
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.2
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.2
In 2010, the direct medical
costs of falls, adjusted for inflation, was $30.0 billion.4
What outcomes are linked
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.5,6
Falls are the most common
cause of traumatic brain injuries (TBI).7 In 2000, TBI accounted for 46% of fatal falls among older adults.3
Most fractures among
older adults are caused by falls.8
The most common are fractures of the spine, hip, forearm, leg, ankle, pelvis,
upper arm, and hand.9
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.10
Who is at risk?
The death rates from
falls among older men and women have risen sharply over the past decade.3
In 2009, about 20,400
older adults died from unintentional fall injuries.2
Men are more likely than
women to die from a fall. After taking age into account, the fall death
rate in 2009 was 34% higher for men than for women.2
Older whites are 2.4
times more likely to die from falls as their black counterparts.2
Rates also differ by
ethnicity. Older non-Hispanics have higher fatal fall rates than Hispanics.11
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.12
Rates of fall-related
fractures among older women are more than twice those for men.13
Over 95% of hip fractures
are caused by falls.14 In 2009, there were 271,000 hip fractures and the rate
for women was almost three times the rate for men.15
White women have
significantly higher hip fracture rates than black women.15
How can older adults
Older adults can remain independent and reduce their chances of falling.
Exercise regularly. It is
important that the exercises focus on increasing leg strength and improving
balance, and that they get more challenging over time. Tai Chi programs
are especially good.
Ask their doctor or
pharmacist to review their medicines—both prescription and over-the counter—to
identify medicines that may cause side effects or interactions such as
dizziness or drowsiness.
Have their eyes checked
by an eye doctor at least once a year and update their eyeglasses to maximize
their vision. Consider getting a pair with single vision distance lenses for
some activities such as walking outside.
Make their homes safer by
reducing tripping hazards, adding grab bars inside and outside the tub or
shower and next to the toilet, adding railings on both sides of stairways and
improving the lighting in their homes.
To lower their hip fracture risk, older adults can:
Get adequate calcium and
vitamin D—from food and/or from supplements.
Do weight bearing
Get screened and, if
needed, treated for osteoporosis.