Here’s a few quick statistics from the Center for Disease Control. One out of three older adults have a fall every year. They are the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries for seniors. 46% of these fatal falls are the result of a traumatic brain injury. Men are 40% more likely to die from falls than women. White seniors are 2.4 times as likely to have a fall than blacks. For seniors over 75, they are 400-500% more likely to end up in a long term care facility for greater than 1 year than people between 65-74 years of age.
Now that we have those grim statistics, what can be done about it? Quite a lot actually. As with so many health issues, so much depends on the cause.
What are the main causes of falls?
- Muscle weakness – According to the National Institutes of Health, muscle weakness is one of the most important risk factors for causing falls. Particularly weakness of the stabilizing muscles of the ankles and hips.
- Neurological – there are 3 main categories that are commonly involved: 1) Sensory nerves to the joints; 2) motor nerves to the muscles; 3) central nerve processing
- Vision – If people can’t see well, they are more likely to miss a step on the stairs or trip over an obstruction
- Vestibular sense organs – the semi-circular canals in each ear that help you maintain balance.
- Environment – Items in this category include: poor lighting, cluttered environment, slippery surfaces (rugs, tubs), rickety ladders or step stools, missing handrails or grab bars, poorly fitting or missing footwear.
- Low blood pressure – When it gets too low, you can experience momentary confusion or loss of consciousness.
- Low blood sugar – This can also cause short term confusion or even unconsciousness.
- Drugs – Many prescription medications can have an impact on most of the categories above. The more drugs you are taking, the greater the risk of you experiencing a fall.
We’ll do posts going into more details on each of these causes of falls along with ways you can look for their possible involvement. We’ll also do a post on screening tests that don’t look for the specific causes, but rather, just measure the overall susceptibility to falling from whatever cause.
The Diagnosis Foundation is available to do a free screening event on Fall Prevention at your facility. If you would like to schedule a Fall Prevention screening event for your organization, please contact us to discuss date options and which aspect of fall prevention you are interested in testing. Info@DxFoundation.org