Preventing Injuries in the Elderly

Given that millions of people over 65 fall and sustain an injury each year, what can we do to cut these numbers? The numbers are probably even higher seeing that only half actually tell their doctor. What makes this statistic even worse is the fact that it has been proven that once one falls, it is doubly likely that they will fall again. Further, according to JA Stevens, PS Corso, EA Finkelstein, and TR Miller, in ‘The costs of fatal and nonfatal falls among older adults: Injury Prevention 2006,’ even with inflation adjustments, the direct medical expenditure for injuries caused by falls total $34 billion each year. A third of these costs are those endured out of the hospital. This is quite incredulous given that many of the falls do not cause any injuries.

What can happen after a fall is one loses independence. This results in depression, family burdens and – overall – a heavy price on society. Further, once one has fallen one time, even if they remain physically able to carry on, the fear of falling again causes them to slow down. In an article written by BJ Vellas, SJ Wayne, LJ Romero, RN Baumgartner and PJ Garry, entitled, ‘Fear of falling and restriction of mobility in elderly fallers: Age and Ageing,’ the conclusion reached was that this reduced mobility results in the person becoming weaker and so their chances of falling are further increased.

So how can this be prevented, or at least reduced? Healthcare providers can help by diminishing the risk factors. Most falls are caused by a whole slew of risk factors. These include: inadequate Vitamin D and Calcium (this can be gained through shots and/or pills), lower body weakness, pain in the feet, hazards at home (which really can be prevented such as uneven floors, clutter, etc.), vision, and medication that can cause unsteadiness.

Healthcare providers must also ensure that the elderly know how to take their medication, when to take it, how much to take and more. An even slight inaccuracy on the dosage/time, etc., could result in unsteadiness, balance problems, confusion and thus lead to physical injuries caused by a fall.