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All About Falls and Elders – Part 1 of 2

Posted Aug 01 2011 8:30am

On Friday, a contest was held to determine two winners of a book, The Longevity Prescription – The 8 Proven Keys to a Long, Healthy Life, by the late eminent geriatrician, Robert N. Butler. To win, readers were asked to guess the temperature at Seaside, Oregon at 12 noon on Saturday 30 July.

Seaside Temp Saturday Noon

As you can see in the screen shot, the temperature was 66 degrees Farenheit, and the winners are: Kay Dennison (66 degrees) and Johna Ferguson (65.9 degrees). Your books will soon be on their way.

category_bug_journal2.gif Last week, elderblogger Alexandra Grabbe posted a story wondering how long she and her husband Sven, at ages 64 and 73 respectively, can continue to operate their lovely bed and breakfast inn (I have visited) on Cape Cod. She noted:

”Biking requires quick reflexes, a sense of balance, skills older people do not have. He can't climb ladders, which is also due to a loss of sense of balance. I can still do that, but for how long?”

I was struck by Alexandra's offhanded acceptance of losing balance skills as though it is as inevitable with age as wrinkles. A commenter mentioned it in that vein too. It doesn't have to be that way.

But because falls are devastating to many elders' health and well-being and lead to too many unnecessary deaths, today and tomorrow we are going to cover everything you need to know about falling in old age including causes, what you can do to prevent falls and improve your balance skills.

Falling, which has been well studied and documented, is serious business for elders. Here are some statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) – they are not pleasant to contemplate:

• 81 percent of all falls are among people 65 and older

• One-third of elders age 65 and older fall each year

• After age 85, more than half of women will suffer a fall

• Falls are the leading cause of injury death among people 65 and older

• Falls are the most common cause of nonfatal injuries and hospital admissions for elders

• In 2007, falls accounted for 18,000 deaths from fall injuries

• In 2009, 2.2 million nonfatal fall injuries among older adults were treated in emergency departments and more than 581,000 of these patients were hospitalized

• Two-thirds of those who experience a fall will fall again within six months

• Most fractures among elders are caused by falls

• 20 to 30 percent of elders who fall suffer lacerations, head trauma or hip fractures

• Hip fractures among elders carry a high morbidity (health problems related to a disease or condition) because of prolonged immobility, surgical risks and functional disability possibly related to hospitalization

• 25 percent of those who fracture a hip die within six months of the injury

• Fractures due to falls can affect almost all parts of the body - spine, hip, forearm, leg, ankle, pelvis, upper arm and pelvis

• Falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injury (TBI) which accounts for 46 percent of fatal falls in elders

• Injuries to internal organs from falls in elders cause 28 percent of deaths from falls

Even if you are not injured in a fall, the consequences can be debilitating. According to the CDC:

”Many people who fall, even if they are not injured, develop a fear of falling. This fear may cause them to limit their activities, leading to reduced mobility and loss of physical fitness, which in turn increases their actual risk of falling.”

• 25 percent of those who fracture a hip require life-long nursing care

• About 50 percent of elders who sustain a fall-related injury will be discharged to a nursing home rather than return home

• Men are more likely to die from a fall. After adjusting for age, the fall fatality rate in 2007 was 46 percent higher for men than for women

• Women are more likely than men to be injured in a fall. In 2008, women were 46 percent more likely than men to suffer a nonfatal fall injury

• Rates of fall-related fractures among older women are more than twice those for men

Whew! Are you sufficiently alarmed now to pay attention to what you can and should do to remain upright?

The good news is that falls are largely preventable so tomorrow in Part 2, we will discuss risk factors and prevention.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Jeanne Waite Follett: Affliction

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