Why are falls so hazardous to the elderly?

We have known that falls are dangerous for elderly people for many years. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), falls are the number one reason for death from injuries among senior citizens age 84 and over. They are the second most common reason for death for people ages 65-84.

But what makes falling so dangerous? Broken bones, especially broken hips, can take a severe toll on the elderly. The recovery time for broken hips is lengthy and can lead to other serious or fatal health problems, including pneumonia and heart failure.

Broken hips are not the only problem caused by falls, however. Brain injuries from falls are on the rise in the U.S. elderly population. And in some cases, a person who suffers a concussion from falling may be at increased risk for more falls in the future. A third of people over age 65 will have a fall, and half of these falls will be a subsequent fall. This is especially dangerous because subsequent falls and brain injuries can compound the symptoms, making the second injury worse than the first one.

Elderly people who suffer a brain injury may experience symptoms such as:

  • Dizziness
  • Balance issues
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Seizures

All of these issues make it more likely that an elderly person may fall a second time and suffer serious or fatal injuries.

What can people do to stay safe?

Many elderly people are choosing to live in their own homes rather than in a nursing home. Which is safer? It depends on the person's unique circumstances. Falls happen in both places. A fall in a nursing home may be noticed faster than a fall by someone who lives alone at home. There are, however, many fall hazards in nursing homes. Older Americans and their loved ones need to carefully consider the options and weigh the pros and cons of living at home - especially if they will be living alone - versus living in a nursing home.

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