Fall Rates in Patients 65+ Year Olds
The annual incidence of falls among elderly persons living in the community increases from 25 percent at 70 years of age to 35 percent after 75 years of age.1 Fifty percent of elderly persons who fall do so repeatedly. Falls are even more common in nursing homes, where the average annual incidence of reported falls is 1600 per 1000 patients.2 Women fall more often than men until the age of 75 years, after which the frequency is similar in both sexes. Annually, falls are reported by one-third of all people over the age of 65. Two-thirds of those who fall will do so again within six months. Falls are the leading cause of death from injury among people 65 and older. Approximately 9,500 deaths in older Americans are associated with falls each year.
These shocking statistics highlight the importance of preventing falls by taking deliberate precautions. Age related losses in muscle strength, flexibility, or balance reactions can be addressed through balance, strength assessments, or rehabilitation therapy.
More Need-To-Know Statistics
- When an elderly person falls, their hospital stays are almost twice longer than those of elderly patients who are admitted for any other reason.
- The risk of falling increases with age and is greater for women than men.
- Annually, falls are reported by one-third of all people over the age of 65.
- Two-thirds of those who fall will do so again within six months.
- Falls are the leading cause of death from injury among people 65 and older.
- Approximately 9,500 deaths in older Americans are associated with falls each year.
- More than half of all fatal falls involve people 75 or over.
- Among people aged 65 to 69, one out of every 200 falls results in a hip fracture. That number increases to one out of every 10 for those aged 85 and older.
- One-fourth of seniors who fracture a hip from a fall will die within six months of the injury.
- The most profound effect of falling is the loss of functioning associated with independent living.
- In 2015, the total medical costs for falls totaled more than $50 billion.11Medicare and Medicaid shouldered 75% of these costs.
What Can Happen After A Fall (CDC, 2021)?
Many falls do not cause injuries. But one out of five falls does cause a serious injury such as a broken bone or a head injury.4,5 These injuries can make it hard for a person to get around, do everyday activities, or live on their own.
- Falls can cause broken bones, like wrist, arm, ankle, and hip fractures.
- Falls can cause head injuries. These can be very serious, especially if the person is taking certain medicines (like blood thinners). An older person who falls and hits their head should see their doctor right away to make sure they don’t have a brain injury.
- Many people who fall, even if they’re not injured, become afraid of falling. This fear may cause a person to cut down on their everyday activities. When a person is less active, they become weaker and this increases their chances of falling.
What Conditions Are More Likely To Fall
Research has identified many conditions that contribute to falling. These are called risk factors. Many risk factors can be changed or modified to help prevent falls. They include:
- Lower body weakness
- Vitamin D deficiency (that is, not enough vitamin D in your system)
- Difficulties with walking and balance
- Use of medicines, such as tranquilizers, sedatives, or antidepressants. Even some over-the-counter medicines can affect balance and how steady you are on your feet.
- Vision problems
- Foot pain or poor footwear
- Home hazards or dangers such as
- broken or uneven steps, and
- throw rugs or clutter that can be tripped over.
Most falls are caused by a combination of risk factors. The more risk factors a person has, the greater their chances of falling.
Healthcare providers can help cut down a person’s risk by reducing the fall risk factors listed above.
Senior Fall Prevention Safety: 20 Things You Can Do to Help
- Remove obstacles inside and outside of the house that could cause tripping.
- Install handrails and lights on staircases, with light switches at the top and bottom of the stairs. You may even consider glow-in-the-dark or lighted switches.
- Add non-slip treads for bare wooden steps.
- Install shower and tub grab bars in the bathroom, around the toilet and the tub.
- Place non-slip mats on the shower floor and bathtub.
- Secure loose rugs with double-faced tape, tacks, or slip-resistant backing.
- Repair loose, wooden floorboards and carpeting.
- Store clothing, dishes, food and other necessities within easy reach.
- Immediately clean spilled liquids, grease, or food.
- Paint doorsills with a different, highlighting color to avoid tripping.
- Make home lighting brighter, but prevent glare. Place night lights in the bedroom, bathroom and hallways. Place a lamp within easy reach of the bed for middle-of-the-night needs.
- Store working flashlights in easy-to-find places in case of power outages.
- Have vision checked often and regularly.
- Ask the doctor to review medications regularly for side effects and interactions.
- If he or she is able, have the senior start exercising on a regular basis ─ tai chi or yoga can increase flexibility and strengthen muscles and joints.
- If the senior can’t stand comfortably, have him or her exercise in a chair.
- Have the senior wear sensible shoes. They should be properly fitting, sturdy shoes with non-skid soles.
- Note any health conditions such as dizziness, joint pain, numbness, or shortness of breath when walking. Tell the doctor, should any of these occur. He or she may evaluate muscle strength, balance and walking style (gait) as well.
- Have the senior use assistive devices, if needed. The doctor might recommend using a cane or walker to keep him or her steady.
- Consider a PERS (Personal Emergency Response System) unit that will alert others when help is needed.