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Aging News & Information

Falls Too Often Fatal for Senior Citizens; Tips Offered to Prevent Falls

Falling is the leading cause of injury-related deaths among older Americans.

April 27, 2012 - For senior citizens - those 65 and older - falling can too often be fatal. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that falls are the leading cause of injury-related deaths among this age group, and some 40 percent of seniors fall at least once each year.

Additionally, one in four who sustains a hip fracture from a fall will die within a year, and another 50 percent will never return to their pre-fall level of mobility.

With May designated as Older Americans Month, Health Net, Inc. is using the occasion to share with seniors steps they can take to prevent potentially life-threatening falls.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration on Aging (AoA), one in every eight Americans is now 65 or older.

“This means that a sizeable segment of the population is at risk for falling,” says Jonathan Scheff, M.D., chief medical officer for Health Net, Inc.

“For the elderly,” he adds, “falls often lead to a downward health spiral, so the key is taking steps to prevent falls in the first place. Older Americans are living longer than ever, and our goal at Health Net is to help them avoid debilitating injuries and enjoy their golden years.”


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See Links to more news on falls below this news report.

Read the latest news on Aging


Home fall-prevention checklist

The National Safety Council notes that – during any given week – more than 30,000 Americans over the age of 65 are seriously injured by falling, and the majority of those falls occur at home.

“These are largely preventable injuries,” explains Scheff, “so we’re urging seniors to follow the AoA’s recommendations for preventing falls at home.” These recommendations include:

   ● Install handrails on both sides of any stairways;

   ● Secure all throw rugs and area rugs with tacks, nonskid pads, or double-sided rug tape;

   ● Use non-skid floor wax;

   ● Remove soap buildup in tubs and showers;

   ● Place non-slip strips in tub and shower; secure bathmats with double-sided tape;

   ● Install adjustable-height showerheads;

   ● Mount grab bars on both sides of toilet, as well as on bath and shower walls;

   ● Keep items used frequently within easy reach to eliminate the need for a step stool;

   ● Plug nightlights in hallways, bedrooms, bathrooms and stairways;

   ● Install light switches at the top and bottom of stairs;

   ● Place a lamp and telephone near your bed;

   ● Remove any clutter from hallways and other high-traffic areas.

Wellness fall-prevention checklist

As Scheff points out, “In addition to making their homes as fall-proof as possible, older Americans also can take steps that will both improve wellness and reduce the risk of falling.” Toward this end, the CDC suggests that seniors:

Exercise regularly, because lack of exercise leads to weakness, which in turn increases the chances of falling; exercises that improve balance – such as yoga and Tai chi – are especially beneficial;

Review with your health-care provider the medications – both over-the-counter and prescription – that you’re currently taking to determine if any are causing significant drowsiness or disorientation, as these conditions increase the risk of falling;

Have your vision checked regularly to detect conditions – such as glaucoma or cataracts – that could impair vision and possibly cause a fall; those who wear glasses also should have annual vision tests.

Scheff additionally suggests that seniors contact their health plan and ask if they offer fall-prevention assistance.

“At Health Net,” he says, “our Medicare Advantage members can be referred to a health coach who will assess their risk of falling and then help them take steps designed to prevent falls.”

>> CDC page on senior citizens and falls.

Links to More Archived Reports on Senior Citizens and Risk of Falls

Failing to Take Medications Regularly as Prescribed Increases Falls by Senior Citizens

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May 19, 2010

Osteoporosis Drug, Forteo, Appears to Heal Common Injury to Senior Citizens From Falls

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March 10, 2010

Elderly Women Right Up There with Young Male Athletes in a Risk of Shoulder Dislocation

New reports has more evidence of the serious consequences of falls by senior citizens – women in particular

March 1, 2010

Falls by Senior Citizens Caused by Poor Central and Side Vision, Study Finds

Recommends advising patients 60 and older, even with normal vision, on their increased fall risk and need to take extra precautions

Feb. 1, 2010

Fractures that Plague Senior Citizens Can be Reduced by Taking Calcium with Vitamin D

Large study supports growing consensus that combined calcium and vitamin D is more effective than vitamin D alone in reducing fractures

Jan. 14, 2010

Severe, Chronic Pain in Multiple Areas Found to Increase Risk of Falls in Senior Citizens

‘Controlled trial is needed to determine whether improved pain control could reduce risk for falls among older patients with chronic pain’

Nov. 30, 2009

Antidepressants and Sedatives Associated With Risk of Falls for Older Americans

Over 30% of senior citizens (older than 65) will fall at least once a year; falls are the fifth-leading cause of death in the developed world

Nov. 23, 2009

Senate Says First Day of Fall Should Highlight Prevention of Falls for U.S. Senior Citizens

Senate Resolution targets preventing the leading cause of injuries for those 65 and older

Sept. 23, 2009

Senior Citizens Being Urged to Choose and Use Walkers and Canes Carefully

Proper fit and use may prevent some of the 47,000 annual ER visits by elderly who fall

July 14, 2009

Injuries Related to Walking Canes, Walkers are Sending 47,000 Senior Citizens a Year to ERs

Fractures most common injury for these falls; one in three injuries required hospitalization

June 30, 2009

When Seniors Lose Interest in Going Out, the Motor Skills that Took Them Decline Rapidly

One-point decrease on social activity scale was equivalent to being approximately five years older at the start of the study - risk of death, disability jump

June 22, 2009

Inner Ear Balance Disorders Come with Age; Major Cause of Falls by Senior Citizens

Vestibular disorders are most common cause of dizziness in older people, responsible for 50% of dizziness in elderly.

May 26, 2009

Senior Citizens ‘Inoculated’ Against Falling in Successful Research Project

Shows how brain develops fall prevention strategies that can be generalized to variety of conditions

Feb. 4, 2009

Physical and Cognitive Declines Increase with Age Due to Slow Decay of Nerve Insulation

Myelin breakdown is a process of aging underlying the erosion of physical skills and cognitive ability

Oct. 19, 2008

Sen. Mikulski Wins Again in Fight Against Senior Falls: Senate Adopts Awareness Day

National Falls Prevention Awareness Day was approved by Senate for September 22

Sept. 23, 2008

Elderly Women Increase Their Risk of Falling with Less Than Five Hours Sleep

About one-third of adults older than age 65 experience falls each year

Sept. 8, 2008

iShoe by MIT Student May Save Thousands of Senior Citizens from Deadly Falls

Future versions could help correct problems by providing sensory stimulation to the feet when the wearer is off-kilter

August 1, 2008

Senior Citizens Learning to Fall Like a Skydiver Can Reduce Hip Fractures by 70 Percent

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July 7, 2008

Nearly 8,000 Senior Citizens Die from Traumatic Brain Injuries Following Falls

TBIs maybe missed or misdiagnosed among older adults but 56,000 hospitalized in 2005

July 2, 2008

Senior Citizens Having Problems with Balance, Walking Can Blame Their Brain

People with severe white matter changes were twice as likely to score poorly on the walking and balance tests

March 17, 2008

Risk of Falling Is Overlooked as the Major Cause of Fractures in the Elderly

Evidence says fall prevention can reduce falls by up to 50%

Jan. 18, 2008

Exercise Does Help Senior Citizens Improve Balance Says Data from 34 Studies

Rising from a chair and standing on one leg is enough to help

Oct. 17, 2007

Senior Citizens Improve Mobility Better With Balance Training than Tai Chi

Both reduce falls, more improvement from balance, stepping and mobility

December 11, 2006

Senior Citizens Gain Health, Independence, Balance with Exercise

Goal of study is prevention - keeping people out of nursing homes - Nov. 22, 2006


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