Fall Prevention for Older Adults

Slips and falls (and trips and falls) constitute a major problem for senior citizens. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 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, as well as the number one cause of non-fatal injuries and hospital admissions for trauma.

In 2005 alone, nearly 16,000 people age 65 or older died from injuries related to accidental falls. In the same year, nearly 2 million individuals age 65 or older were treated in emergency rooms for injuries from accidental falls, and more than 433,000 of those patients were hospitalized. Over the past decade, the rate of fall-related deaths among older adults has been increasing.

Slip and Fall Injuries among Older Adults

- 20 to 30 percent of older adults who fall experience moderate to severe injuries like bruises, hip fractures, or head trauma. These types of injuries affect older Americans more dramatically. Such injuries can make it hard for older adults to get around and live independently.

- Falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injury (TBI) among older adults, and TBI is the leading factor behind fatal falls. In 2000, TBI accounted for 46 percent of fatal falls among older adults.

- Falls are the most common cause of fractures among older adults. The most common fractures occur in the spine, hip, forearm, leg, ankle, pelvis, upper arm, and hand.

- In 2000, direct medical costs for fatal falls were $179 million, and direct medical costs for non-fatal fall injuries were $19 billion.

Many people who receive a serious injury during a fall develop a lifelong fear of falling. This fear may cause them to limit their physical activities and reduce their physical fitness, which actually increases their risk of falling again.

Fall Injury Risk Factors

- Men are 49 percent more likely to die from a fall.

- Women are 67 percent more likely that men to have a non-fatal fall injury.

- Among older adults, rates of fall-related fracture injuries are two times higher for women.

- In 2003, 72 percent of older adults admitted to the hospital for hip fractures were women.

- The risk of injury increases with age. For example, the rates of fall injuries for adults 85 or older are 4 to 5 times higher than those of adults 65 to 74.

- 85 percent of fall fatalities in 2004 were among people 75 or older.

- People 75 or older are 4 to 5 times more likely to be admitted to a nursing home after a fall.

How to Prevent Fall Injuries for Older Adults

- Regular exercise is the best fall prevention measure. Exercises like yoga and tai chi are especially beneficial because they build balance as well as strength.

- Frequent reviews of medications by pharmacists and doctors will help to reduce side effects and interactions that could lead to falls. Be sure to include over-the-counter medication in these reviews.

- Have an eye exam at least once a year.

- Improve the lighting in and around the home. Motion sensor lights will help prevent nighttime falls.

- Reduce hazards in the home that may lead to a fall. Use non-slip mats in the shower and on slick floors. Install grab bars in the bathroom if necessary.

Fall injuries among older adults can be difficult to overcome. If you or a loved one has been injured by a slip and fall due to another’s negligence, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. Contact an experienced Georgia premises liability attorney to discuss your legal rights. Call MLN Law at 404-531-9700 to schedule you free consultation.