Recurrent falls are common causes of hospitalization and death among the elderly. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 2.5 million older people are treated in the emergency department for fall-related injuries per year, and over 50% of falls among elderly people result in an injury with long-term implications (e.g. decreased physical function or fear of falling). The fear of falling can discourage older people from keeping active which can increase joint stiffness, weakness, and reduce mobility. Fear of falling can also cause a person to change or cut down their usual daily activities, which may result in isolation or being institutionalized. Most elderly people cannot get up without help after a fall, sometimes remaining stationary for hours, increasing the risk of dehydration, pressure ulcers, rhabdomyolysis, hypothermia, and pneumonia.
Falls can result in significant injuries such as broken bones and head trauma. Head injuries can be very serious and it is advisable that an older person seek immediate medical attention after a fall to make sure they don’t have a brain injury. Other injuries such as hip fractures can impact mobility, sense of freedom/fear of being institutionalized.
Research has identified several conditions that contribute to falling:
- Vision impairment.
- Lack of balance or deficits in postural balance: An elderly person may lack the ability to maintain or recover balance from a fall.
- Foot pain.
- Multitasking while walking.
- Failure to notice environmental hazards (broken or uneven steps, lack of handrails in the bathroom or stairs).
- Vitamin D deficiency.
- Lower body weakness.
- Use of medicines (a psychoactive drug or psychotropic substance): the number of drugs taken and the use of drugs contributes to the risk of falls.
While these risk factors are the leading causes of most falls, healthcare providers can help to reduce or eliminate these factors.
Families can also take active steps to help reduce loved one’s risk of falling. These steps include:
- Ask a healthcare provider to evaluate the risk of falling.
- Ask a pharmacist or a doctor to review the side effects of medications that may contribute to falls.
- Exercise: do strength and balance exercise to make your legs stronger and improve balance.
- Encourage to schedule annual appointment with an ophthalmologist (MD) or an osteopathic (DO).
- Remove all obstacles that can make someone trip over.
- Add grab bars in the bathroom and railings on the stairs.
- Add bright bulbs around the house.
If an elderly care facility or one of its employees has failed to take reasonable steps to prevent a fall, contact the New York nursing home abuse and elderly neglect lawyers of Hach & Rose, LLP, at (212) 779-0057 today for a free consultation. Our team is experienced in negligence cases and we are dedicated to protecting the rights of the elderly.