Just slightly late but always topical, in honor of National Falls Prevention Awareness Day, September 23, 2015, we offer this by our colleague Bernadette Keefe, MD.
Take a Stand to Prevent Falls
“One of every three older adults falls each year, but less than half talk to their healthcare providers about it.” – Lawrence Z. Rubenstein MD, MPH, Chair of Geriatrics at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center
On September 23, 2015, the U.S. celebrated the 8th Annual Falls Prevention Awareness Day.The announcement on the National Council for Aging (NCOA) Falls Prevention Day website reads:
“The 8th annual Falls Prevention Awareness Day (FPAD) will be observed on September 23, 2015 – the first day of fall. The event seeks to raise awareness about how to prevent fall – related injuries among older adults. The 2015 theme is Take A Stand to Prevent Falls and the official twitter hashtag for this year’s event is #FPAD15 “
Dr. Robert Glatter wrote an excellent piece in Forbes this year, “Why Falls Should Be Part of The Doctor-Patient And National Conversation for Older Persons.” In the piece he highlighted the shocking falls statistics in the U.S.:
- one third of older adults over the age of 65 fall each year
- 2 million older adults present to the emergency department (ED) because of falls each year
- …over 700,000 of whom are hospitalized ( costing over $30 billion )
- CDC data for 2013: 2.5 million non- fatal falls treated in ED
- CDC data for 2013: 25,000 older adults died as direct result of a fall
- I highly recommend his entire article as an introduction to this topic.
All of the above statistics have sharply worsened over the past 10 years (partly due to increased awareness of reporting and increased longevity). In fact, people under 65 years old are falling with more frequency as well. Alcohol, medication and decreased fitness are key factors here. A recent falls prevention awareness campaign infographic highlighted this by addressing its message to the over age 55 population!
Risk factors for falling at any age include:
- altered perception/coordination due to alcohol or drugs/medications
- decreased visual acuity
- poor fitness
- hazards in the built environment around us
- distraction (ie walking while texting etc)
KEY Consequences of Falls to Patients/People
Injury, even death.
Fear of falling again also affects quality of life, mobility, ability to socialize. There is, additionally, a ‘downhill” spiraling effect: If You Think You’ll Fall – You Will!
Resources for Falls Prevention Strategies
There are numerous trusted sources for Falls Prevention Strategies. Please see the reference list below to get informed on some of what is available. Please talk to your physician or geriatrician about any questions or worries.
Technology for Falls Prevention
The aging demographic (over age 65) will comprise 77 million American adults by 2030. (The boomers aren’t babies any more.) Almost for this reason alone, numerous technologies have been released or are in development to make aging in general safer and aging-in-place a reality.
From personal sensors (on the body, in shoes, etc.) to home sensors (to monitor movement) to bed sensors to completely wired /sensored living environments for aging – the innovation is robust. However, most sensors at this point are focused on falls detection. What we are in desperate need of is technology to assist with falls prevention.
Falls prevention technologies are available to the athlete in the form of extensive gait analysis, balance and foot strike assessment. My hope is that this technology will filter over to mainstream applications, in the “ordinary” patient. The consequences of falling are too serious not to offer the best technologies to all people.
Please see the category: Aging in place, Active Aging: Technology, Startups, Hackathons in the reference list below for more information about this vibrant and essential innovation space.
Falls over the age of 55 are common, and over the age of 65 become a serious, deadly problem.
Take steps now to avoid falling yourself! Take steps now to prevent falls in your loved ones. (Use the upcoming holidays to take a walk through ALL of the house, including the garage. Remove the hazards you find, arrange for the installation of banisters or grab bars where they would be helpful, etc.)
‘Have The Conversation’ with a trusted healthcare professional (physician etc) if you or your loved one fears falling or has fallen.
Raise awareness about our national Falls Prevention Day – the first day of fall every year.
Get involved in local governance regarding the built environment and pedestrian safety. This is not just relevant for older people. Strollers, toddlers, multi-generational families, young & older persons with physical limitations, people on walkers, using canes, in wheelchairs all benefit from attention to access. Be aware of access issues for them and hazards.
Peruse the references below & keep handy at home for Falls Prevention!
Falls Prevention Awareness
Strategies to Prevent Falls
The STEADI initiative (Stopping Elderly Accidents, Deaths, and Injuries)