Posts Tagged ‘falls

16
Nov
08

New CDC data reveals scope and seriousness of treating falls for elderly

Be sure to check out this important article from today’s New York Times. Writer John Leland reports on some recent data released on the website of the federal government’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on the long-term – and often unreported – physical, emotional and psychological impact of certain injuries sustained by the elderly.

Once considered an inevitable part of aging, falls are now recognized as complex, often preventable events with multiple causes and consequences, calling for a wide range of interventions, both psychological and physiological, that many patients never receive.

Even falls that cause only minor injury “need to be taken as seriously as diabetes,” said Dr. R. Sean Morrison, a professor of geriatrics and adult development at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, because “they can be a real warning sign that something serious is wrong.”

And according to Dr. Mary E. Tinetti, a falls expert at Yale University medical school:

[C]ompared falls to strokes in their harmfulness, adding that people do not always report them or seek help, for fear their families will try to put them in nursing homes. For some people, Dr. Tinetti said, admitting that they fall is tantamount to admitting that they are no longer competent to take care of themselves.

Each year, 1.8 million Americans over age 65 are injured in falls, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Some rebound as if the injury never happened. But for some, the fall sets off a downward spiral of physical and emotional problems — including pneumonia, depression, social isolation, infection and muscle loss — that become too much for their bodies to withstand.

In 2005, the last year for which statistics are available, 433,000 people over 65 were admitted to hospitals after falling, and 15,800 died as a direct result of the fall. Less visible are the many who survive the fall but not the indirect consequences.

Other important statistics reported by the CDC include:

 

  • One in five hip-fracture patients over age 65 die within a year after surgery, according to the C.D.C.; one in four have to spend a year or more in a nursing home.
  • When younger people fall, they tend to break their wrists catching themselves, but in older people, who have slower reactions and less upper-body strength, the weight more often falls on their hips or heads. Any underlying conditions, like heart disease or respiratory problems, increase the chances of a downward health spiral.

  • Psychological factors can be just as devastating as physical trauma, and can lead to the injured individual becoming “socially isolated and depressed.”
  • The period of immobility after a fall is particularly dangerous    

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