One out of every three people over the age of 65 will fall this year. Only half of them will talk to a medical provider about the fall. In 2010, 2.3 million seniors went to the emergency room because of a fall and over 650,000 were hospitalized. Over 21,000 died. These numbers are rising and the trend is expected to continue.
The fall itself: Many seniors die due to traumatic brain injury, either at the time of the fall or at some point in treatment. That is considered the number one killer in fall related deaths. A study done in 2005 shows that half of those who died from a fall were killed by brain injury.
Broken Hip: An elder with a broken hip is three times more likely to die than average. Most hip fracture cases are in the elderly, between 87 and 96%. The reasons for death can be related to other health problems, but some can be related to the treatment for the break.
Blood Clots: This is a problem that our family has personal experience with. An elderly relative fell and broke her ankle. The injury was serious enough to require her not to walk on it. She spent several weeks with her legs elevated. She was basically not able to get out of bed…a prime condition for developing blood clots in the veins in her legs.
This is deadly and it can happen in hours. Thankfully, her caregivers were observant and she was rushed to the hospital in time to prevent them from breaking loose. Not all seniors are that lucky. It is estimated that 60,000 to 100,000 people die each year because of this problem.
Boredom: The relative I mentioned had a serious problem with boredom during her recovery. It’s not uncommon…recovering from any serious injury, no matter how old you are, is boring. Boredom can lead to or be a symptom of depression. There is a clear link between depression and death. While in this case it didn’t result in suicide, it can happen.
Because falls do kill in many different ways, the best thing to do is avoid them. That doesn’t mean wrap up in cotton wool, but it does mean a few changes. Grab rails in the shower, walk in tubs and other modifications to the home can go a long way towards preventing falls. The use of a rotator walker is another. They provide the best stability for those who might be at risk for falling. Talk to the doctor about what is most likely to help in this regard.