Falls have been a leading cause of injury for older Americans for decades, and the data on this problem is startling. As a Physical Therapist with Pemi-Baker Hospice & Home Health for nearly 12 years now, I can attest to the number of home health patients we treat annually due to a fall. Research compiled by the CDC finds:
- In 2018, approximately 36 million falls occurred among people aged 65 and over in the US, and of that number, there were roughly 8 million injuries.(1)
- One out of every 5 falls among older adults causes a serious injury, such as a broken bone or a head injury.
- In fact, falls are the most common cause for traumatic brain injuries (TBI).
- If you are curious about the cost of all this falling to the healthcare system, annually it totals close to 50 billion dollars for non-fatal falls, and another 750 million dollars for fatal falls.
- NH actually has a higher than average rate of deaths due to falling, with a rate of 109 deaths per 100,000 falls annually. The national average is 66-68 deaths per 100,000 falls.
The WHO has reported that people over the age of 75 tend to fall more frequently in their homes, while those younger than age 75 seem to fall outside more often. Prior surveys found that around 30% of falls in the home happened in the living room, while another 30% were occurring in the bedroom. 19% of falls from this data set took place in the bathroom.
As for the reasons why people fall, there are numerous contributing causes. Many times, a person who falls will have several issues that weigh in against them. The evidence shows the likelihood of falls can be influenced by many factors including:
- A prior fall. This is often the single strongest predictor of further falls.
- Weakness of the leg or hip muscles. This can contribute to poor balance and slower reaction times, making it harder to stop a fall if a person stumbles or bumps into something
- Poor vision, which also influences balance
- Use of medications such as sedatives, some pain killers, or anti- depressants. Some of these may cause drowsiness or slower reactions.
- Joint pain, especially in the feet, ankles, knees or hips.
- Trip/slip hazards in the home such as clutter, objects lying in hallways, poor lighting, high thresholds, liquid spilled onto floors.
Fortunately, there are some effective options available to help reduce the chances of falling. The CDC has published a manual titled “A CDC Compendium of Effective Fall Interventions”. The first item they go over is exercise. Studies have repeatedly shown that specially designed exercises aimed at weak muscles and poor balance can be effective for many people in reducing falls.
The second item in the CDC Compendium effective for reducing falls was modification to the living environment. This might consist of things like making sure there is adequate lighting, getting rid of broken down old footwear, installing color contrasting tape on stairs, or getting a shower chair and hand-held shower attachment in place.
For over 55 years, Pemi-Baker Hospice & Home Health has been providing services exactly as I have described above, to people in Grafton County, right in their homes. Our agency has highly trained, caring Occupational and Physical Therapists who can bring their expertise to your home and give you the right guidance on what you should do to reduce your chances of a fall. We can create custom home exercise programs and recommend practical, effective ways to modify your living environment for better safety. While our outpatient OT and PT service has now transitioned to operating thru the Mid-State Health Center, Pemi-Baker Hospice & Home Health continues to provide top quality in-home OT, PT, and Nursing care. For more details, call or check our website www.pbhha.org.
With over 55 years of experience, serving clients from 29 towns in central and northern New Hampshire, Pemi-Baker Hospice & Home Health is committed to creating healthier communities. Services include at-home healthcare (VNA), hospice and palliative care, and Community Programs including: American Red Cross CPR/AED/FA, Caregiver Support Groups and Grief and Bereavement Support Groups. Providing compassionate care with experienced staff who are trained, certified professionals in the business because of their hearts. In your time of need, we’re right where you need us.
Pemi-Baker is located at 101 Boulder Point Drive, Suite 3, Plymouth, NH. To contact us please call: 603-536-2232 or email: email@example.com Like our Facebook Page: @pemibakerhospicehomehealth
~written by Ernest Roy PT DPT, Quality Director PBH&HH