Falls are not just the result of getting older. Many falls can be prevented. Falls are usually caused by a number of things. By changing some of these things, you can lower your chances of falling. In 2000, the total direct cost of all fall injuries for people 65 and older exceeded $19 billion. The financial toll for older adult falls is expected to increase as the population ages, and may reach $54.9 billion by 2020 (adjusted to 2007 dollars).
More than one third of adults 65 and older fall each year in the United States
Among older adults, falls are the leading cause of injury deaths. They are also the most common cause of nonfatal injuries and hospital admissions for trauma (CDC 2005).
In 2005, 15,800 people 65 and older died from injuries related to unintentional falls; about 1.8 million people 65 and older were treated in emergency departments for nonfatal injuries from falls, and more than 433,000 of these patients were hospitalized (CDC 2005).
The rates of fall-related deaths among older adults rose significantly over the past decade (Stevens 2006).
Twenty percent to 30% of people who fall suffer moderate to severe injuries such as bruises, hip fractures or head traumas. These injuries can make it hard to get around and limit independent living. They also can increase the risk of early death.
Falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries, or TBI (Jager et al. 2000). In 2000, TBI accounted for 46% of fatal falls among older adults (Stevens et al. 2006).
Most fractures among older adults are caused by falls (Bell et al. 2000).
The most common fractures are of the spine, hip, forearm, leg, ankle, pelvis, upper arm, and hand (Scott 1990).
Many people who fall, even those who are not injured, develop a fear of falling. This fear may cause them to limit their activities, leading to reduced mobility and physical fitness, and increasing their actual risk of falling.
In 2000, direct medical costs totaled $0.2 billion ($179 million) for fatal falls and $19 billion for nonfatal fall injuries (Stevens et al. 2006).
Older adults can take several steps to protect their independence and reduce their risk of falling. They can:
Exercise regularly; exercise programs like Tai Chi that increase strength and improve balance are especially good.
Ask their doctor or pharmacist to review their medicines–both prescription and over-the counter–to reduce side effects and interactions.
Have their eyes checked by an eye doctor at least once a year.
Improve the lighting in their home.
Reduce hazards in their home that can lead to falls.
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