The Far Reaching Effects of a Fall

Although statistics show that most falls occur in the home and that older people, especially those with chronic illnesses or failing senses, are the most frequent victims, there is no shortage of such mishaps on wintry streets for both young and old. Especially not this winter, and especially not in cities and towns like Atlanta where experience negotiating ice and slush under foot is limited. Fall injuries requiring medical attention rise almost linearly from age 18 on, peaking at 115 per 1,000 adults 75 and older. Statistics among older people are indeed daunting. Dr. Laurence Z. Rubenstein, chairman of geriatrics at the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine, reports that those 65 and older constitute about 13 percent of the population but account for three-fourths of all deaths caused by falls. About 40 percent in this age group fall at least once a year; one in 40 of them end up in the hospital, after which only half are still alive a year later. Among the factors that account for these grim data are underlying ailments, including osteoporosis; age-related physiological changes like slowed protective reflexes; sensory losses like poor eyesight; medication side effects; a stiffer, less coordinated gait; loss of muscle tone and strength; and a drop in blood pressure upon arising, as well as environmental hazards like icy or uneven sidewalks and loose rugs. Another factor is fear of falling, especially common among those who have already sustained a bad fall. Fear can become a self-fulfilling prophecy that, by curbing activity, can lead to a loss of muscle tone, balance and bone density, and increase the chance of a disastrous fall. “Maintaining muscle strength with advancing years is critical to reducing the risk of falls, Dr. Rubenstein said. So is improving balance.

Source/more: New York Times

David Wingate is an elder law attorney practicing in Frederick and Montgomery Counties. David Wingate’s practice includes wills, powers of attorneys, trusts, asset protection and Medical assistance (Medicaid).

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