Missoula Measures - Falls Among Older Adults
Why this topic?
Falls are the most common cause of injuries among senior citizens and are the top reason for a hospital admission for trauma. Advanced age substantially increases the likelihood of hospitalization after a fall. Falls account for 87% of all fractures among people aged 65 years or older. MedicineNet.com
Fear of falling may cause a person to reduce his or her level of physical activity which actually increases the risk of falling.
Fractures in older people heal more slowly than those in younger people. A lengthy recovery period from fractures or other injuries can cause depression and can severely reduce a person's independence and further reduce mobility, agility, balance and muscle strength. Falls can be:
- Devastating - in terms of pain and loss of independence
- Deadly - as the leading cause of injury deaths among older adults
- Costly - $30 billion a year in 2012.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); Preventing Falls.
With the population aging, both the number of falls and the costs to treat fall injuries are likely to increase.
- One in three adults aged 65 and older falls each year. Of those who fall, 20% to 30% suffer moderate to severe injuries that make it hard for them to get around or live independently, and increase their risk of early death.
- Older adults are hospitalized for fall-related injuries five times more often than they are for injuries from other causes.
- In 2012, emergency departments treated 2.4 million nonfatal fall injuries among older adults; more than 722,000 of these patients had to be hospitalized.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Approximately 1/3 of people over 65 fall each year, although accurate statistics are elusive. Hospitals code a hip fracture rather than a fall, for instance, and many falls go unreported. 90% of hip fractures related to falls. B. Perkins DPHHS, Feb. 2010
Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services intends to fund pilot community-based fall prevention program in several communities. DPHHS has selected Stepping On, a program developed in Australia and re-worked in Wisconsin, which includes balance and strength exercises, medication, vision, and home safety modules. It targets community dwelling older adults who have had a fall or have a fear of falling and has been shown to reduce falls by 30% in previous trials.
Over the last decade, health practitioners and researchers have developed effective community fall prevention programs. There are public awareness programs, some focused on fitness and balance, and others with a broader, more comprehensive multi-disciplinary program. They include:
- Tai Chi
- A Matter of Balance
- Stay Active and Independent for Life
- Safe Steps
- Stepping On
These programs are supported by the National Council on Aging’s Center for Healthy Aging (and their Falls Free Coalition), CDC, US Administration on Aging, the Home Safety Council, and the Archstone Foundation.
Contact Missoula Aging Services for information about Missoula programs.
Risk factors include
- Biological factors - chronic health conditions, mobility problems, vision loss
- Behavioral factors - inactivity, medication side effects and interactions, alcohol use
- Environmental factors - clutter, poor lighting, need for assistive devices, poorly designed spaces
- Denial - reluctance to acknowledge risks and take appropriate action to reduce risk
Elders may experience a downward spiral starting with fear of falling, which leads to caution and restriction of physical activity, which leads to inactivity and isolation, which can lead to frailty, falls, and loss of independence.
Preventing Falls - American Academy of Family Physicians
Fall Prevention - Senior Living
Fall Prevention Programs - National Council on Aging
The Role of Exercise and Physical Activity - MedicineNet.com