When a child falls you end up with a boo-boo and a bandaid. When a senior falls- you can end up with traumatic brain injury (TBI).
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in this 2005 study, report that falls among Americans age 65 and older, resulted in nearly 8,000 deaths and 56,000 hospitalizations from hitting the head and suffering TBIs.
Falling becomes increasingly common as we age because of poor balance, loss of sensation in the feet, and muscle weakness. Some medications may lead to a lack of balance, and clutter, vision changes, and poor lighting, may cause seniors to trip and fall.
"Most people think older adults may only break their hip when they fall, but our research shows that traumatic brain injuries can also be a serious consequence. These injuries can cause long-term problems and affect how someone thinks or functions. They can also impact a person's emotional well-being," Dr. Ileana Arias, director of the CDC's National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, said in a prepared statement.
Among the national statistics analyzed:
- Men had more fall-related TBI deaths. 26.9 per 100,000 for men, versus 17.8 for women
- The cost for hospitalization was more than $19,000 for men and $16,000 for women
Every year about one-third of older Americans suffer a fall, and one-third of those require medical treatment.
Many of these TBIs are also the result of elderly patients having been placed on second-generation antipsychotics to quell dementia-related irritability.
Notwithstanding a black box warning by the FDA, doctors are still prescribing these medications off label (Risperdal, Zyprexa, Seroquel) to elderly patients who exhibit advanced signs of dementia as well as Alzheimer’s-related dementia. Side effects can include dizziness and fatigue.
Besides traumatic brain injury, falls killed nearly 16,000 older adults in 2005, according to the CDC, and 1.8 million ended up in the emergency room.
Seniors over the age of 75 have the highest number of TBI-related hospitalizations and death.
Aging baby boomers need to reduce their risk if they want to avoid burdening the health care system, researchers conclude. Methods to minimize falls include increasing exercise, education, eliminating hazards and checking vision.
The study is published in the June issue of the Journal of Safety Research. #