Falls Among Older Adults

Falls Among Older Adults

Falls are not a normal part of aging. Most falls are preventable if we can teach older adults what hazards to remove in their homes and help them increase their strength and balance.

Falls are the leading cause of injury-related death among Utah adults ages 65 and older. (They’re the 10th leading cause of death for this age group overall.) Utah adults ages 65 and older account for 60% of fall hospitalizations and 80% of all fall-related deaths in Utah.(1,2)

Many people who fall, even if they are not injured, will develop a fear of falling. This fear cause them to limit their daily activities which can lead to decreased mobility, loss of physical fitness and strength, and actually places them at a higher risk of falling in the future.

There are many common factors that can increase the chance that an older adult will fall.

Age

Utahns 85 years of age and older had the highest rates of both fatal fall-related injuries and fall hospitalizations.(3) Almost two-thirds of Utahns aged 65+ who were hospitalized due to a fall were discharged to residential care or a rehabilitation facility. Only 32% were able to return home. (4)

Gender

Females of every age group had a significantly higher rate of fall hospitalizations than their male counterparts.(3)

Health conditions

The risk of fall-related injury is greater for people with osteoporosis, arthritis, neurological and musculoskeletal disabilities, visual impairment, Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and clinical depression.

Medication

Some medicines can cause drowsiness or dizziness, and some drugs can interact with other medicines or alcohol and cause problems that may lead to falling.

Lifestyle

Lack of regular exercise or physical activity, poor nutrition, low calcium and vitamin D intake, smoking, excessive alcohol use, substance abuse and misuse of medication are all associated with a higher risk of fall injury.

Environmental hazards

At home or in other places, the following hazards can lead to falling:

  • Slippery or wet surfaces
  • Uneven floors and surfaces
  • Poor lighting
  • Loose rugs
  • Unstable furniture
  • Clutter and objects on floors

References

  1. Utah Death Certificate Database, Office of Vital Records and Statistics, Utah Department of Health: 2010-2012 data queried via Utah’s Indicator-Based Information System for Public Health (IBIS-PH) [cited 2014 January].
  2. Utah Inpatient Hospital Discharge Data, Office of Health Care Statistics; Utah Emergency Department Encounter Database, Bureau of Emergency Medical Services, Utah Department of Health; 2009-2011 data queried via Utah’s Indicator-Based Information System for Public Health (IBIS-PH) [cited 2014 January].
  3. Utah Inpatient Hospital Discharge Data, Office of Health Care Statistics, Utah Department of Health; 2009-2011 data queried via Utah’s Indicator-Based Information System for Public Health (IBIS-PH) [cited 2014 January].
  4. Utah Department of Health, Violence & Injury Prevention Program, Falls database.