For Elderly, Even Short Falls Can Be Deadly

by Lois Etienne on February 11, 2011

in Senior Health and Safety

Even ground-level falls pose deadly risks for seniors, a new study finds. And caregivers are among those who can help seniors avoid serious spills.

Daughter-And-Senior-Father“There is the potential to minimize what people see as a relatively trivial issue, such as slipping and falling on a wet tile floor,” said Julius Cheng, associate professor in the Department of Surgery at the University of Rochester Medical Center and lead study author. “Our research shows that falls from low levels shouldn’t be underestimated in terms of how bad they can be, especially in older patients.”

According to the study, adults age 70 or older who experience ground-level falls are much more likely to be severely injured and less likely to survive their injuries compared to younger adults. Elderly patients are three times as likely to die following a ground-level fall compared to their under-70 counterparts. It’s now estimated that 30 percent of adults older than 65 years will experience an unintentional fall each year.

“This study brings up the important question of what we need to do as a society to help our older folks take care of themselves,” said Cheng. “Instead of just treating falls as they happen, the focus should be on what we can do to help older people avoid them in the first place. This can be as simple as making sure there is no loose carpeting in their home and putting railings on both sides of stairways and in bathtubs and showers.”

This study reiterates the important role that caregivers play in the lives of seniors, keeping an eye open for fall risks in their home and offering a steady hand.

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