Falls and Older Adults
by: Dr. A. R. Scopelliti
Pretty much everyone knows at least one person who has fallen. The fall may have been purely accidental, such as a slip and fall, or the fall may have been related to dizziness. More than one in three people age 65 years or older falls each year. The risk of falling and thus fall-related injuries rises proportionally with age. Each year, more than 1.6 million elderly go to US emergency departments for fall-related injuries. Among older adults, falls are the number one cause of fractures, hospital admissions for trauma, and accidental injury deaths. Fractures caused by falls can lead to hospital stays and oftentimes to long term disability. With this comes loss of independence. Most often, fall-related fractures are at the arm, hand, ankle, spine, pelvis or hip. Hip fractures are amongst the most serious type of fall injury. They are a leading cause of loss of independence, particularly in the elderly. Only 50% of the elderly hospitalized for a broken hip return home or are capable of living on their own after the injury.
There is high morbidity associated with hip fractures, mostly from complications.
Most people develop a fear of falling which increase with age. This can become even more overwhelming for those with a previous fall. As such, many will avoid activities of daily living such as walking, shopping, or taking part in social activities.
Many individuals have deceived themselves into thinking that they are not at risk of fall simply because they have never fallen, or because they do not feel imbalanced. This could not be further from the truth. You see, the problem with risk of fall is that by the time that you can tell that you have a problem; the problem has already gotten severe. It is for this reason that the hospital administration mandated fall risk analysis in 2004. My office checks dozens of patients weekly for risk of fall. Most know they have a problem going into the test as that is why they are in my office in the first place. Many others however feel confident that they will score high and are surprised when they do not.
If you are worried about falling, our office offers a simple 20 second test to assess your overall stability, and thus your risk of fall. The test is accurate and currently the standard used to evaluate fall risk. My office offers this testing free as a community service. We will also send a copy of the report back to your doctor, so that they know both that you have been tested and whether or not you are high risk. Those who are high risk will be accepted as patients and treated appropriately. Of those treated, most will have reduced their risk to normal; the remainder will have improved by at least one or two categories.
Because of the human aging process, changes occur around the sixth decade that lead to diminished balance ability and thus an increased risk of fall. These detrimental changes can be easily fixed with some simple exercises. Since most people don’t ever get checked, they don’t ever fix these detrimental changes and fall risk just continues to rise with age.
Even though detrimental changes occur as an inevitable part of human aging, falls are not an inevitable part of human aging. Getting rid of your risk of falling, as well as your fear of falling can help you to stay active, maintain your physical health, and prevent future falls. Call our office today for more information on falls, fall risk screening, or balance/dizziness problems in general. More information can be found on our website at www.dcneuro.net.
Dr. Scopelliti is NJCCN president. Focusing on treatment for vertigo, dizziness, imbalance, presyncope, dystonia, coma, and other neurologic disorders, Dr. Scopelliti has Lectured and Authored Software for Vestibular Rehabilitation. Find a wealth of information at Jersey Shore Regional Center For Vertigo, Dizziness, Dystonia and ADD ADHD. Visit Dr. Scopelliti’s Guestbook to see what patients say.
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