Like so many other statistics, the number of seniors accidentally falling are shocking. Approximately every 17 seconds, a senior citizen is being admitted to a hospital for treatment due to a fall. More alarming, approximately every 30 minutes, a senior citizen dies from fall related injuries, according to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Falls in Senior Citizens
Causes range from attempting simple tasks such as picking-up a newspaper to tying a lose tennis shoe. In other instances, seniors fall from becoming dizzy or disoriented due to prescription interaction or for lack of taking medications as prescribed by a doctor.
Other instances are “third party” causes, such as tripping over pets, toys left scattered by grandchildren or misplaced items falling onto the floor. Even a bath towel falling off a rack or rinse cup rolling of a sink can be causes of falling.
A common cause of slipping and falling comes from shower or bathtubs not equipped with grip strips or traction stickers. Iced driveways, porches and sidewalks are also culprits which typically result in slip and fall accident for seniors. Many seniors benefit from using a medical alarm or medical alert system.
Seriousness of Senior Falls
Injuries from senior falls range greatly in severity. In some circumstances, the fall is cushioned by a chair, couch or bed. In other instances, a senior could fall down a few steps or entire flight of stairs. The most serious injuries come from landing on pavement/concrete, pool surfaces, tile and hardwood. These surfaces are not “forgiving” and generally cause more damage to the epidermis and can result in soft tissue damage as well as broken bones. But senior citizens without a medical alert system or medical alarm may suffer unnecessary injury.
Monetary costs vary widely because of the situations in particular. Some seniors only suffer minor bruises and the cost is little more than a co-pay for a visit to a primary physician’s office. However, costs can skyrocket. The CDC reports in 2005 that falls account for an astounding $349 million–of which, $189 million accounts for women age 65 and $160 million for men aged 65 years.
For seniors over age 85, men made up $62 million in injuries while women made up $105 million. These costs continue to rise as America’s baby boomers begin to reach the retirement age of 65 years old. Such costs can be avoided by having a medical alert system or medical alarm.
These costs are not just the monetary costs, but also the emotional “costs” on the individual and the family itself. Because seniors need emotional support from family, the time invested by family members and close friends significantly raises the stakes.
Families must give up time at work to comfort seniors injured in falls. Moreover, more time must be dedicated to escorting seniors to doctor’s appointments, tests, rehabilitation sessions and for the selecting and purchasing of necessary walking aids such as walkers, canes and other devices.
There are some preventative measures families with seniors can take, such as insisting on using a walker or other ambulatory device. Putting grips on the floors of showers and bathtubs will also help to reduce the risk of falls. And installing handrails on stairs will lessen the chances of falls occurring in senior citizens.
Other fall prevention options are a medical alert system for more effective fall prevention for seniors. These devices can be worn around the neck, placed in a pocket or even over the wrist–making them easily accessible if needed.
Having a fall detector or medical alarm system can help in responding to these issues. While such systems don’t prevent falls from occurring, they do help to minimize the trauma and emotional costs, allowing for help to respond very quickly when needed.