Courtesy of –
Karina Tama – Rutigliano
Digital Marketing Manager
Caring People Home Healthcare Agency
Falls Are the Leading Cause of Injury to Seniors: Essential Facts and Statistics
Falls are the leading cause of injury to seniors, both fatal and non-fatal.[i] Falls pose a significant threat to seniors’ safety and independence, and as a result, give rise to enormous economic and personal costs. Seniors are currently considered the fastest growing age group worldwide.[ii] In recent years, the number of elderly adults has been increasing across the board. In 1996, there were 323 million people in the world above 65 years of age. That number increased to 440 million by 2010 and is predicted to reach 1,555 million by 2050.[iii]
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:[iv]
- Roughly 25% of Americans aged 65 and over fall every year.
- Falls cause over 2.8 million injuries treated in emergency departments per year, including more than 800,000 cases that require hospitalization and more than 27,000 deaths.
- It is estimated that every 11 seconds, a senior adult receives emergency room treatment for injuries sustained in a fall, while every 19 minutes, an older adult dies from a fall.
- Fall injury-related costs amounted to $34 billion in 2013.
- The expenses associated with older adult falls are likely to increase further, as the population ages, By 2020 it will be about $67.7
One significant study reported in the Oxford Journals that as a direct consequence of falling, 139 respondents (68.1%) suffered physical injury, 48 respondents (23.5%) sought medical services, and 35 respondents (17.2%) actually needed treatment. 5.9% of the respondents suffered major physical trauma. Concerning medical treatment, in 21 respondents (10.3%) medication was prescribed or changed, whereas 16 respondents (7.9%) were referred to a hospital. Seventy-two respondents (35.3%) reported a decline in functional status, 34 respondents (16.7%) reported a decline in social activities, and 31 respondents (15.2%) reported a decline in physical activities as a direct consequence of their most recent fall. Over 90% of respondents were less physically active for more than one week.[v]
Another study first reported in 2013 a review of reported fall injuries in medical literature from 1995 to 2010 and found that falls among the senior population are associated to a large diversity of more or less severe and undesired physical consequences.[vi] A total of four categories were considered for injuries: fractures, bruises, injuries, and “other” physical consequences. In this review it was observed that fractures resulting from a fall can occur in almost every area of the body. However, hip fractures and other various bone fractures are the most referenced in the literature reviewed, with 37.9% and 27.5% incidence, respectively.[vii]
Studies showing that falls are the leading cause of injury to seniors, may vary regarding the percentage of respondents suffering serious injury or requiring extensive medical treatment. One fact is clear, though: the physical effects of falls in the elderly are serious.
Falls Are the Leading Cause of Injury To Seniors
Falls can result in a variety of outcomes from no injuries sustained, to relatively minor injuries, to serious injuries and even death.
Physical injuries can include:
- Pain – Pain, ranging from minor aches to severe, debilitating pain, is an indicator of underlying conditions and very often prevents healing.
- Bruising – Bruising often develops after the initial trauma and can be aggravated by existing medical conditions or medications.
- Scratches and other superficial wounds – Contact with rough surfaces or other objects during or as a result of a fall can cause scratching or cutting of the skin. While these wounds are generally minor, underlying medical conditions or medication régimes often found in elderly people can complicate the healing process.
- Hematomas – This is a collection of blood, usually clotted, in a tissue or organ, caused by a break in a blood vessel. These can range from a simple bruise to extreme swelling, pain, restricted movement, and numbness or tingling. These signs usually mean that a serious condition is developing.
- Lacerations – A laceration is a deep cut or tear in the skin. Such a deep wound is normally accompanied by steady bleeding and pain. If a difficulty exists with blood clotting, such as may be a side-effect of some medications, lacerations can be deadly.
- Fractures – Fractures are any type of breakage in the bones. As a person ages, the bones become less durable and more susceptible to breakage. As referenced in one of the studies above, fractures are the most-sustained fall-related injury. In fact, hip fractures caused by falls account for roughly 25% of injury deaths among those over 65, and for about 34% of deaths among those 85 or older.[viii]
- Intracranial bleeding – Intracranial bleeding is bleeding within the skull, most often due to a head injury. This type of injury is a life-threatening condition and requires immediate treatment.
- Death – Every 19 minutes, an older adult dies as the result of a fall.
Fall injuries in the elderly have serious consequences, which place severe burdens on families and heavy demands on healthcare systems. Research has proven that as a person ages, the risk for a fall and a fall-related injury increases. In addition to physical injuries, a fall can also have an effect on the level of functioning. Fall victims require increased assistance with caring for basic and personal needs. Those who have suffered a fall often fear falling again and, as a result, severely curtail their activities. This inactivity contributes to the increased risk of a second and subsequent falls due to muscle atrophy and joint stiffness. Inactive people do not heal from injuries as fast as those who are more active.
While falls are the leading cause of injury to seniors, recovering from fall-related injuries and subsequent avoidance of activity also places a severe strain on the victim and their family. Fall victims should be encouraged to take advantage of all available medical and therapeutic services in order to recover as quickly as possible. Returning to as active a lifestyle as is possible will contribute to physical and mental well-being. Avoiding activity out of fear only heightens the chances of suffering another fall in the future.
[vi] European Review of Aging and Physical Activity, April 2014, Volume 11, Issue 1, pp 51–59. http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11556-013-0134-8