How big is the problem?
- More than one third of adults 65 and older fall each year in the United States
- Among older adults, falls are the leading cause of injury related deaths. They are also the most common cause of nonfatal injuries and hospital admissions for trauma (CDC 2006).
- In 2004, 14,900 people 65 and older died from injuries related to unintentional falls; about 1.8 million people 65 and older were treated in emergency departments for nonfatal injuries from falls, and more than 433,000 of these patients were hospitalized (CDC 2006).
- The rates of fall-related deaths among older adults rose significantly over the past decade.
- 20% to 30% of people who fall suffer moderate to severe injuries such as bruises, hip fractures, or head traumas. These injuries can make it hard to get around and limit independent living. They also can increase the risk of early death.
- Falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries, or TBI. In 2000, TBI accounted for 46% of fatal falls among older adults.
- Most fractures among older adults are caused by falls.
- The most common fractures are of the spine, hip, forearm, leg, ankle, pelvis, upper arm, and hand.
- Many people who fall, even those who are not injured, develop a fear of falling. This fear may cause them to limit their activities, leading to reduced mobility and physical fitness, and increasing their actual risk of falling.
- In 2000, direct medical costs totaled $179 million for fatal falls and $19 billion for nonfatal fall injuries.
- People 75 and older who fall are four to five times more likely to be admitted to a long-term care facility for a year or longer.
Older adults can take several steps to protect their independence and reduce their risk of falling. They can:
- Exercise regularly; exercise programs like Tai Chi that increase strength and improve balance are especially good.
- Ask their doctor or pharmacist to review their medicines-both prescription and over-the-counter - to reduce side effects and interactions.
- Have their eyes checked by an eye doctor at least once a year.
- Improve the lighting in their home.
- Reduce hazards in their home that can lead to falls.
Fire District 6 takes the dangers of falls very seriously. We understand that one fall may be the deciding factor between living in a care facility and remaining independent. As a regular part of our year, we visit adult retirement communities and provide falls prevention training. We also provide falls prevention presentations to many other groups, from fraternal organizations to church groups. Included in the presentation are important resources for senior citizens. There are ways to help prevent falls. If you are interested in having this information presented to your group, please email the Public Education Coordinatorus or call us at 360-576-1195.
Links for more information: