Big risks for seniors from small falls

About a third of people aged 65 and older fall each year. Many of these falls, such as a little slip in the kitchen, may seem fairly insignificant. However, a new study published in the Journal of Trauma shows that the elderly are much more likely than others to suffer severe injuries and even death from seemingly simple falls.

The study, which was reported on at the web site, Science Blog, looked at what happened to more than 57,000 people who experienced ground-level falls between 2001 and 2005. A ground-level fall is one in which the person had both feet touching the floor prior to falling.

4.5 percent of seniors aged 70 and older died following their fall, compared to only 1.5 percent of younger individuals. While this is still a small percentage, it highlights the heightened risk of falling. Seniors for whom the fall wasn’t fatal tended to remain in hospitals and intensive care units longer. And significantly fewer of them were able to function on their own after release compared to the younger group.

The study highlights that doctors and hospitals need to take all falls seriously, no matter how innocuous the incident may seem. Seniors should also make sure they get attention as quickly as possible. A medical alert system can help, especially when the injured person can’t get to the phone.

Equally import is taking care of your home and yourself to reduce the risk of falls. This involves both “fallproofing” the home and doing proper exercises to improve strength and balance. Here are a few recent blog posts that can help:

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