Falls are the #1 cause of long term care need. They are typically a result of decreased body strength, balance issues, vision problems, home hazards or foot pain. Usually it’s a combination of two or more of these factors.
As we age, falls become more complicated to bounce back from. While most falls don’t lead to permanent injury, one out of five do result in serious injury, like broken bones which don’t heal as well or brain trauma.
Falling By the Numbers
- In 2017, unintentional falls led to over 36,000 deaths in the US.
- The National Council on Aging reports, “Every 11 seconds, an older adult is treated in the emergency room for a fall; every 19 minutes, an older adult dies from a fall.”
- One in three adults over 50 years of age dies within 12 months of suffering a hip fracture.
- For older adults, the risk of a hip fracture leading to death is 5 – 8 times higher. Death can occur as quickly as 3 months after suffering the fracture.
What’s Behind the Falls?
The National Council on Aging explains how preventable most of these accidental deaths are. So if we have the means to avoid the injuries, why are they continuing to happen more frequently?
In my experience, many fall-related deaths are caused because people fail to accept the fact that they need to slow down and/or need help in their simple, daily tasks. They shrug off stumbles or occasional falls as “part of getting old”. As their needs rise, they continue to deny their declining capacity. As if this denial of reality will postpone the worsening of their situation!
I see this in my new community at Shell Point Retirement Community and, I must admit, I expected my neighbors to be more in touch with the reality of their true needs. We live in an environment where the full spectrum of care is available and paid for. And that level of care is above average.
I have a neighbor who resists using her walker even though she admits to having great difficulty with her arthritis. She admits to her difficulties with opening jars and dressing herself because of her arthritis. And there are many similar examples of this “head in the sand” avoidance.
The simplest way to reduce falls is to be brutally honest about your actual need and circumstances, and then taking the appropriate action. People evidently have huge difficulty doing this.
Denial of the facts is something I’ve written about extensively. I understand that resisting the truth of our declining health is part of our survival instinct (or maybe just our ego?). It’s just a shame that so many intelligent people are unable to override this instinct more often.
In doing so, they may suffer the ultimate consequence.
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