It’s scary when an elderly individual falls down and can’t get up, and it can be life threatening as well. According to the National Council on Aging, falls are the leading cause of both fatal and nonfatal medical injuries in individuals over the age of 65. In fact, every 11 seconds, an individual is treated in an emergency room for a fall, and every 19 minutes, someone dies from fall-related injuries.
What Causes Seniors to Fall?
There are many risk factors that contribute to falls in the elderly population. Some are more common than others, including the following:
Accident or environmental causes (31%)
Gait or balance disorders (17%)
Other specified conditions (15%)
Dizziness and vertigo (13%)
Drop attacks (10%)
Unknown reasons (5%)
Vision problems (3%)
Postural hypotension (3%)
Many falls are caused by a combination of the above factors, and most falls occur in the home. Additionally, most falls occur when victims are on level ground, as opposed to when they are climbing stairs. There are also many health issues that contribute to elderly falls, including lower body weakness, vitamin D deficiency, trouble walking and the use of certain medicines.
Who Is at the Most Risk for Falls?
Men and women over the age of 65 are at an increased risk for falling. However, men are 46 percent more likely to die from falls than women. On the other hand, women are 58 percent more likely to experience non-life-threatening injuries from a fall. Women are also two times more likely to suffer a fracture than men. Furthermore, when you reach the age of 75, your chance of falling is four times higher than at age 65.
How Much Can a Fall Cost a Senior?
Falls are extremely costly. In 2013, fall injuries cost seniors in the U.S. a total of $34 billion. It is expected that by the year 2020, the annual costs of elderly falls will rise up to $54.9 billion.
Sadly, even though so many elderly people fall each year, less than half of victims tell their doctors. When individuals do not tell their doctors, they increase their chances of falling again. In fact, after an elderly person falls, they are two to three times more likely to repeat the incident.
What Happens if an Individual Doesn’t Get Help in Time?
One out of five falls results in serious injuries such as fractures and broken bones. Even when injuries don’t occur, 47 percent of fallers cannot get up without assistance. Timely medical attention is crucial for individuals who cannot get up and take care of themselves. Most people need help within the first hour after a fall. In fact, 62 percent of fallers who do not receive help during this hour window will have difficultly living independently after recovery.
If an individual does not receive assistance within four to five hours, the chance of being hospitalized increases. When someone is left unassisted longer than six hours, extensive hospitalization may be required. In fact, 90 percent of individuals who do not receive help within six hours of falling have to live in nursing homes following recovery.
Medical Alert Benefits
Elderly individuals who do not have family members and friends to check in on them several times throughout the day or an activated medical alert system may require extensive hospitalization after a fall, as injuries can prove to be fatal without fast assistance. Medical alert systems are designed to help fall victims get the assistance they need within the critical first hour. Only 3 percent of individuals who have an activated medical alert system remain on the floor longer than an hour.
Furthermore, after a fall, an individual living on their own may be fearful of falling again. A medical alert system eases that fear and helps them resume their daily activities. A fall shouldn’t stop an elderly person from enjoying their remaining years. With the right assistance, such as a medical alert system, individuals over the age of 65 can live life to the fullest.