By Craig Escobar

In this three-part series on fall prevention among the elderly, I am going to cover the scale of the problem, the importance of in-home care in fall prevention, and lastly, I am going to interview Dr. Daniel Davids, the Traveling Physical Therapist, who will provide some important and helpful tips to help prevent seniors from falling.

Most people don’t realize that falls are considered preventable injuries by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services as well as the Center for Disease Control (CDC). Senior in-home care agencies can play a very active role in helping to prevent seniors from falling. The scale of the problem is mind-boggling and needs to be addressed.

The Scale of the Problem:

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

  • Deaths from unintentional injuries are the seventh leading cause of death among older adults and falls account for the largest percentage of those deaths.
  • On average, one of every four adults over 65 falls each year.
  • Every 11 seconds, an older adult is treated in the emergency room for a fall; every 19 minutes, an older adult dies from a fall.
  • Falls are the leading cause of fatal injury and the most common cause of non-fatal trauma-related hospital admissions among older adults.
  • Falls result in more than 2.8 million injuries treated in emergency departments annually, including over 800,000 hospitalizations and more than 27,000 deaths.
  • 35% of those who have a fall have a subsequent decline in function and after a first fall people have a 66% chance of having another fall within a year.
  • The rate of deaths from falls increased in the United States by an average of 3.0% per year during 2007–2016
  • In 2015, the total cost of fall injuries was $50 billion. Medicare and Medicaid shouldered 75% of these costs.
  • The financial toll for older adult falls is expected to increase as the population ages and may reach $67.7 billion by 2020.

Falls, with or without injury also carry a heavy quality of life impact. A growing number of older adults fear falling and, as a result, limit their activities and social engagements. This can result in further physical decline, depression, social isolation, and feelings of helplessness.

One of the most serious fall injuries is a broken hip. It is hard to recover from a hip fracture and afterward many people are not able to live on their own. As the U.S. population gets older, the number of hip fractures is also likely to increase.

  • Each year over 300,000 older people—those 65 and older—are hospitalized for hip fractures.
  • More than 95% of hip fractures are caused by falling, usually by falling sideways.
  • Women experience three-quarters of all hip fractures.
  • Women fall more often than men.
  • Women more often have osteoporosis, a disease that weakens bones and makes them more likely to break.
  • The chances of breaking your hip increase as you get older.

In part two of this series, I am going to cover how important home care is and how people can take advantage of it to help prevent this epidemic from getting worse.