I have talked about this problem before, and I know I will again, as it is one of the major causes not just of injury among our elders but of death – falls. The leading causes of geriatric death from injuries are,
- Falls – 47%
- Neglect – 22%
- Physical Abuse – 12%
- Car Accidents – 8%
- Suicide – 7%
- Other – 4%
Every one of those is a sad statistic, but falls stand out for me, not just because the percentage is so high, but because so many of those deaths were preventable, with good home safety and caregiving practices. So, we need to stop monkeying around and address the factors that produce those falls, leading to geriatric deaths.
This is especially important because the trend appears to be increasing, in terms of the incidence rate over the last six or seven years for which I have seen statistics.
AlphaOne, a first responder company here in the greater Sacramento, CA area, did some training for our Home Care Aides on this topic, including some scary data, including:
- From the time a toe strikes an object or a heel contacts a walking surface to the beginning of the trip / slip / fall is about 200 milliseconds (ms).
- The falling process itself takes 600 ms t0 800 ms, so the total time to fall is often just one (1) second. That ain’t much time to respond.
So, clearly, once the fall begins, the chances of doing something about it are not great, either for the person falling or someone who is with that person.
At Support For Home, we train our Home Care Aides not to try to stop the fall, but, if possible, to “guide” the fall to a gentler landing. There are specific techniques for this, turning a fall into a slide and helping to reduce the probability of injuries, including traumatic brain injuries (TBIs). Since falls are responsible for 51% of TBIs for adults 65 years of age and older, that is a very big deal.
Traumatic brain injuries are not the only grave danger for elders, however. Over 90% of hip fractures are caused by falls, and hip fractures are a very serious cause of mortality for seniors.
So, the long and the short of it is, prevention is key. Do home (and other environments, as well) safety checks to eliminate clutter, lose rugs, anything that can impede walking and pose a danger. Make sure you or the senior you love gets plenty of exercise – including balance strengthening exercises – to reduce the likelihood of a fall. If you or your loved one is a fall risk, make sure the appropriate tools and devices are in use, whether that is a cane, a walker or whatever – and make sure the device is the right type for the need.
So, stand tall, stride out, and best wishes. Bert