Safety in the Balance: Preventing Falls and Injuries in Elders

Article excerpt

"Mom had a fall." Those words don't have the jarring drama of a diagnosis of cancer or Alzheimer's disease, but they are spoken every day across the United States in the quavering voice of a middle-aged daughter or son.

The consequences can be devastating, according to the Injury Center website of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Between 20% and 30% of falls among elders result in moderate to severe injuries, from nasty bruises or broken teeth to hip fractures or head traumas.

Falls, says CDC, are the leading cause of injury or deaths among U.S. elders age 65 or older. "Each year in the United States, nearly one third of older adults experience a fall," reports the Injury Center website.

CDC continues, "In 2005, more than 15,800people 65 years or older died of fall-related injuries. Another 1.8 million were treated in emergency departments for nonfatal injuries related to falls." (To learn more about falls among older adults, visit the CDC website at www.cdc.gov/ ncipc/duip/preventadultfalls.htm.)

Preventing falls in older adults would seem to be a no-brainer, even on purely economic grounds, but relatively few experts, advocates and policymakers have devoted much brain power to this deceptively complex issue. Like other aspects of Healthcare and long-term care for elders, the task of fall prevention reaches into homes, institutions, services, agencies and disciplines from medicine to architecture. In fact, a gathering movement to focus on this sleeper issue-a pervasive problem with as little cause for immediate public concern as the slow melting of glaciers-is forming fall-prevention coalitions and bringing together experts and service providers from many disciplines. …