- One out of three adults age 65 and older falls each year, but less than half talk to their healthcare providers about it.
- Among older adults (those 65 or older), falls are the leading cause of injury death. They are also the most common cause of nonfatal injuries and hospital admissions for trauma.
- In 2008, over 19,700 older adults died from unintentional fall injuries.
- The death rates from falls among older men and women have risen sharply over the past decade.
- In 2009, 2.2 million nonfatal fall injuries among older adults were treated in emergency departments and more than 581,000 of these patients were hospitalized.
- In 2000, direct medical costs of falls totaled a little over $US19 billion—$US179 million for fatal falls and $US19 billion for nonfatal fall injuries. This equals $US28.2 billion in 2010 dollars.
"The total average annual frequency of deaths and hospitalisations respectively, for falls in buildings in Australia were 343 and 105,968 for the period July 2002 – June 2005. The estimated annual cost for these deaths was $250 million, and $1.28 billion for hospital admissions, excluding indirect costs."
So anything that we can do to reduce the trauma caused by "slip ups" is not only saving lives, it's keeping people out of hospital and its saving a fortune. So what can we do?
Staying fit is the first thing to do. Our muscles not only are used for locomotion, but also act as "shock absorbers" when we land - think jumping off a low wall. Without any decent tone or strength in your muscles, doing that small jump could lead to serious injury. One simple way to help improve your leg strength is to find a nice shiny wall or locked door and stand with your back to it: now slowly slide your back down the wall so your knees bend to 90 degrees, and then push back up. If 90 is too far then only go half way: the point is to start within your ability and then to slowly increase the load you put on your legs as the weeks go past. Start with say 5 bends, have a break and then repeat. As the weeks go on, increase the number you do and lower yourself down to 90 degrees (but don't go any lower).
The second thing to do is to work on your balance. Many elderly people have problems with balance and it is wise not only to check with your physician before starting any balance exercises, but also to seek out a physical therapist who can demonstrate them to you in safe physical surroundings. Balance exercises are not rocket science, but they do need to be done away from sharp objects and preferably on a soft surface - just in case! The Mayo Clinic have a simple routine so check out
Finally, whenever we go out there is a potential to have a fall or a slip: what would you do? Would you put your hands out to break your fall and risk snapping your wrists? Probably the best way to prevent serious injury is to learn to roll as you fall and spread the impact over your trunk and reduce the chance of serious injury: you'll still get a battering and some great bruises, but you might also avoid a life threatening fractured hip. Luckily we live near the beach so that the young bride and I can practice this on the soft sand - it still jars, but it's fun too.
So in 2012, be aware, be strong and stay balanced!