Goodness knows I have had my fair share of falls in my lifetime. As a child learning to walk, running through a playground, climbing on things that were unstable or unsafe … yep, I have done all those things and more! I have just been very lucky that I have not sustained any serious or long lasting damage as a result of these trips and falls. Age has definitely been on my side but this will not always be the case.
As we age, falls become extremely dangerous. Among older adults, falls are the most common cause of non-fatal trauma related hospital admissions, and are in fact the leading cause of fatal injuries. These are staggering facts (no pun intended).
Some factors certainly contribute to falls risks among the elderly. Age related diseases such as Dementia make it difficult to properly recognize changes in surfaces, eye sight difficulties make it hard to see hazards, and diseases such as neuropathy make it hard to feel different surfaces. Further to this, if we have problems with our bones, joints or skin, damage from falls can be extensive.
We can make changes in our lives to reduce the risk and impact of falls, such as diet, exercise and medical checkups (these topics are important enough for their own blog!) However when a loved one does have a fall, the long term consequences can go beyond the injury itself.
- Falls can affect a senior’s independence: Did you know that falls are the leading cause of a senior moving to a residential aged care facility? Sometimes this is only short term, however sometimes this can be a permanent move if they are unable to properly recover from the fall. For those people who are able to return to or remain at home, some people may feel nervous about the same thing happening again, either in the home or outside. This can lead to isolation, depression, anxiety and a significant reduction in their independence to undertake activities such as shopping, showering and preparing meals. It is terrible to think that once you recover from the fall and the injuries have healed, you may still feel the effects for months and years to come.
- One fall can be the start of many: Did you know that if you are over 65, you have a 1 in 3 chance of having a fall each year? And half of those people will fall again. When a senior has a history of falls, the risk doubles or triples because of a loss of confidence, mobility and physical conditioning.
- Falls can lead to serious injury: Did you know that 20% – 30% of seniors who fall actually suffer moderate to severe physical injuries, such as breaks, cuts and bruises? More serious and common injuries include broken hips and head injuries, and it is probably not surprising that the overwhelming majority of hip fractures are as a result of a fall. Fall related injuries are the most significant reasons for hospitalization of seniors by a multiple of five! It is not just a common risk, but a very serious one too.
- Falls can affect more than the person who fell: When a loved one loses their independence, the impact can be felt by the whole family. Personal care, shopping, housekeeping, medical appointments, activities and so on still must be attended to. In serious cases, the loved one may require around the clock care for a short or long time, and sometimes this means a family member has to quit their job or take extended leave.
Luckily it is not all doom and gloom. The medical system in Australia is excellent in helping people to recover from falls, the blogs on our website include information on keeping your loved ones safe at home and, if your loved one needs some assistance after a fall, our care partners at Home Care Assistance are skilled, experienced and educated in helping them recover fully and as comfortably as possible. Our book, “From Hospital to Home Care” is an excellent step by step guide for our care partners to provide care to patients post hospitalization. We will care for your loved one as you would like us to.