In a recent New York Times article, Steve Lohr wrote “Falls are so harmful to the elderly and so costly to society, that if falls were a disease, they would be deemed an epidemic*.” And According to Marlo Sollito: “Falls are the leading cause of death, injury and hospital admissions among the elderly population.”
Though falls among the elderly are often a result of some other health problem such as cardiovascular weakness, or something as seemingly simple as dehydration, far and away the greatest risk of falls is dementia. A person with dementia (PWD) is 3 times more likely to fall than are others of the same age. This is due in part to the difficulties a PWD experiences in seeing (e.g., problems with spatial relationships and depth perception), in thinking (e.g., confusion, misperceptions), in balancing (e.g., diminished reaction time), and in moving (e.g. inability to perform purposeful acts such as walking — known as apraxia).
Although we may not be able to completely prevent falls we can reduce the risks of falling and ameliorate some of the trauma associated with a fall. Research into the problem of falls suggests that the way to accomplish this consists of a combination of:
— Della Frazier-Rios, RN, MS
Senior Vice President,
Director of Education & Outreach
* The estimated cost of falls ranges widely, up to $75 billion a year in the United States, if fall–related home care and assisted-living costs are added to medical expenses.
Two additional good resources for information about falls are:
http://www.temple.edu/older_adult/ — on this site you will find an “In-Home Safety Check” and tips on home safety.
http://www.stopfalls.org/researchers_educators/re_fr.shtml— on this site you will find amongst other information, a sizeable bibliography on falls and falls-prevention articles.