According to a January 2014 report released by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, one in three elderly adults, ages 65 or older, falls in the U.S. each year. In New York City, falls were the leading cause of injuries among the elderly. In 2011, 291 deaths and 17,452 hospitalizations of older adults were fall-related. In 2010, 28,527 adults ages 65 and over visited the emergency room as a result of a fall. The study also points out that fall-related emergency room visits among older adults increased by 22 percent from 2006 to 2010. Adults ages 85 and over have the highest risk of falling.
Most falls among elderly NYC residents caused injuries that required follow-up care after being released from the hospital. The report indicated that 78 percent of elderly people hospitalized for a fall required additional care upon discharge. While 42 percent of the older adults had to be admitted into a nursing home facility, 19 percent of elderly patients required follow-up care from a home health service. Only 22 percent of those hospitalized for a fall did not require additional care after being discharged.
Older NYC adults who were hospitalized as a result of a fall were likely to be diagnosed with serious injuries. For instance, 48 percent of the elderly patients suffered from fractures. In addition, one in ten adults hospitalized for a fall was diagnosed with traumatic brain injuries, which often require life-long, intensive care. The cost of all fall-related hospitalizations among older NYC adults was $771 million in 2011.
The report also revealed that most falls among the elderly–58 percent–occurred at home. Of those who fell at home, 22 percent reported falling in the bedroom. In addition, the most common cause of falls, 42 percent, was tripping, usually over unsecured throw rugs, clutter or furniture. Only eight percent of adults reported slipping in the bathroom or shower.
While falls among older adults are dangerous, they can be prevented. Elderly people can take several steps to protect themselves from a fall. First, older adults can become more physically active. Exercise improves muscle strength as well as balance and coordination, which prevents falls. Second, older adults should remove tripping hazards, such as clutter or throw rugs, throughout the home. Third, elderly people can talk to their doctors about any medications they are taking. In some cases, certain medications, especially when mixed together, can cause dizziness which can lead to falls. Finally, older adults should have their vision checked. Routine eye exams can detect vision problems that can be easily correct in order to prevent dangerous falls.
Website Resource: Falls among Older Adults in New York City