Many of us know an older individual who is a parent or the parent of a friend who’s sustained a fall. As most people are aware, the occurrence of a fall is a snowball of adverse events and health related problems.
Every year, there are 3 million older adults who are treated in emergency departments (ED) for fall related injuries. In addition, older adults who visit the ED after a fall are at increased risk of revisiting the ED and are also at increased their risk of dying. Fall related injuries are among the 20 most expensive medical conditions with an average hospital cost of more than $30,000. In 2015 the cost of falls was $50 billion with Medicare and Medicaid paying 75% of that cost. One big reason for these falls in this patient population is polypharmacy (taking multiple medications). Due to the fact that many elderly patients absorb, excrete and metabolize drugs differently this can lead to serious adverse effects. Aside from polypharmacy risk factors include:
- Arthritis and joint pain
- Cardiovascular disease
- History of falls
- Foot deformities/foot pain
- Reduced muscle strength and endurance
- Vision impairment
- Nutritional deficiencies
The most common cause for falling is the incorrect transfer of body weight. Only 3% of falls are caused by slipping. Also 30% of falls are caused by tripping. Many health care providers including physical therapists have various tools and techniques to help assess and treat people that are at risk or who have fallen in the past. If you or someone you know have fallen or are at risk for falling notify your physician so that evaluation and treatment can be initiated or an appropriate referral to a specialist can be made.