Protecting Senior Citizens from Injury-Causing Falls
February 16, 2018
According to the National Council on Aging (NCOA), falls are the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries in individuals over the age of 65. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that more than 1 in 4 Americans age 65 or older fall every year. There are many steps that individuals and caregivers can take to limit the risks of falls, as well as subsequent injuries and fatalities.
Almost 3 million people 65-years-old and above are treated in emergency room departments for fall-related injuries. Out of the 3 million, approximately 800,000 sustain head or hip injuries. According to data from the CDC, falls account for more than $30 billion in healthcare costs every single year. As the older population in the country continues to grow, the CDC estimates that these costs may increase by as much as 100%.
There are many ways that injuries from a fall can hinder an older individual’s quality of life. The NCOA cites that people over 65 tend to fear falling (whether or not they’ve been injured in a fall previously) and as a result, they become prone to social isolation, feelings of helplessness, depression or even further physical decline. The fear of a fall is understandable: every 11 seconds someone 65-years-old or older is treated in an emergency room for falling, and every 19 minutes, someone over 65 dies because of the injuries he or she sustained in a fall.
Depending on the severity of a fall, a variety of injuries can occur. Some of the most common injuries that senior citizens experience from falling include:
- Traumatic brain injuries or TBIs;
- Hip fractures, and:
- Broken bones (such as wrist, ankle and arm)
There are many factors that can increase a person’s likelihood of falling. The CDC finds that some conditions most likely to put someone at danger for falling are:
- Improper footwear or foot pain;
- Lower body weakness;
- Difficulties with balance, coordination and walking;
- Vitamin D deficiency;
- The use of certain medications, such as sedatives, antidepressants and tranquilizers (some over-the-counter medications can also affect a person’s coordination and balance);
- Vision problems, and:
- Various hazards – some of which can be at home – such as uneven walkways, steps and types of clutter
Although not every fall results is major health problems, statistics from the CDC show that at least 1 in 5 falls result in something serious, like a hip fracture or head injury. For older individuals who take blood thinners, head injuries can be especially dangerous. For this reason anyone who is over 65, takes blood thinners and has fallen should be immediately seen by a doctor to ensure that no traumatic brain injury or other type of dangerous head injury has occurred.
Luckily, there are plenty of steps that older individuals can take to limit their chances of falling. The CDC recommends that people over 65 have a discussion with their doctor about fall prevention – particularly if they have fallen in the past or experience problems with mobility. It is also especially important for people 65 and older to go to an optometrist, or eye doctor, at least once a year to ensure that vision problems don’t contribute to increasing fall risks. The NCOA urges senior citizens to have a doctor or pharmacist review all medications they take, so that if one is more likely to decrease mobility additional precautionary measures can be taken.
Some other helpful tips for older individuals include participating in various strength and balance building exercises. By increasing overall physical stability, the chance of someone falling can decrease. An example of this type of exercise is tai chi. According to a Harvard Health study, tai chi is not too strenuous and also helps improve a person’s flexibility, balance and overall muscle strength through gentle conditioning. As long as a medical doctor has recommended making a lifestyle change that includes physical exercise, participating in low impact, slower paced workouts such as tai chi, yoga or swimming can help to prevent falls.
Adult children of senior citizens along with caregivers can take certain steps to help protect older individuals from falls as well. Some ways to do this include ensuring that a person’s home is safer by making it as clutter-free as possible. It is also important to make sure that a home or apartment is well lit so that adequate visibility doesn’t create a fall hazard. Some other helpful tips include installing various safety features, such as railings on both sides of a stairway and grab bars inside a shower, tub or next to a toilet.
Although older individuals and caregivers can take lots of steps to make a home safer, this isn’t the only place that a dangerous and injury causing falls occur. Lots of people fall as a result of unsafely or inadequately maintained properties, such as in someone else’s home, a business, parking lot or even when walking on uneven or hazardous sidewalks. When a person gets injured because of someone else’s failure to ensure that their property is safe, it is important to speak directly with an attorney.
With colder weather steadily approaching, it’s crucial to remember that adverse weather conditions can also raise the likelihood of slipping and falling – so be extra careful to keep an eye out for tricky looking walkways and slippery stretches of ice. If you have any questions or concerns about an injury you or a loved one sustained as a result of falling, please contact a representative at our firm directly.
Philadelphia Slip and Fall Lawyers at Galfand Berger, LLP Represents Individuals Injured in Slip and Fall Accidents
If you experienced injuries as a result of a slip and fall, please contact our Philadelphia slip and fall lawyers at Galfand Berger. With offices located in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Lancaster, and Reading, we serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey. To schedule a consultation, call us at 800-222-8792 or complete our online contact form.