Fall Injury Prevention

Falls Among Older Adults – An Overview

Each year, 1/3 of adults age 65 and older will fall, causing moderate to severe injuries; hip fractures and head injuries, and can increase the risk of early death. Fortunately, many falls are largely preventable.

How big is the problem?

  • One in three adults age 65 and older fall each year.
  • Less than 50% talk to their healthcare providers about falling or their fear of falling.
  • Among older adults (those 65 or older), falls are the leading cause of death from injury.
  • Falls are also the most common cause of nonfatal injuries and hospital admissions for trauma.
  • In 2010, 2.3 million nonfatal fall injuries among older adults were treated in emergency departments
  • More than 662,000 of these patients were hospitalized in 2010.
  • In 2010, the direct medical cost of falls, adjusted for inflation, was $30.0 billion.

What outcomes are linked to falls?

  • 20% – 30% of falls result in moderate to severe injuries; lacerations, hip fractures, or head trauma.
  • Falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries (TBI).
  • In 2000, TBI accounted for 46% of fatal falls among older adults.
  • Most fractures among older adults are caused by falls.
  • The most common are fractures of the spine, hip, forearm, leg, ankle, pelvis, upper arm, and hand.
  • Fear of falling results in limited functional activities, leading to reduced mobility and loss of physical fitness, and in turn increasing a person’s fall risk.

Who is at risk? Fall Injuries… and Fall-related Deaths

  • Over 95% of hip fractures are caused by falls.
  • Rates of fall-related fractures among older women are more than twice those for men.
  • In 2009, there were 271,000 hip fractures; the rate for women was almost 3 times the rate for men.
  • White women have significantly higher hip fracture rates than black women.
  • Admission to a long-term care facility [for a year or longer] is 4-5 times greater for people age 75 and older who fall, than those age 65 to 74.
  • Death rates from falls among older men and women have risen sharply over the past decade.
  • In 2009, about 20,400 older adults died from accidental fall injuries.
  • Mortality rates from falls are greater for men than for women.
  • Age adjusted fall death rate in 2009 was 34% higher for men than for women.
  • Mortality Rates also differ by ethnicity.
  • Older whites are 2.4 times more likely to die from falls as their black counterparts.
  • Older non-Hispanics have higher fatal fall rates than Hispanics.

What can be done for my fall risk patients with balance impairments?

Multifactorial approaches to balance retraining and balance recovery are best suited for optimal outcomes.

OrthoBalance PT is armed with state-of-the-art NeuroCom balance assessment and retraining computerized digital posturography [CDP] technology.

Initially developed for NASA to evaluate the effects of space flight on vestibular function and balance control in astronauts, and, with later support from the National Institutes of Health, to study the effects of disease on balance and mobility functions.

Today, NeuroCom® Smart Balance Master systems are used around the world in a broad spectrum of medical disciplines including otolaryngology, neurology, physical medicine, orthopedics/sports medicine, geriatrics, and physical rehabilitation and are used in the clinical management strategies of a wide range of acute and chronic balance disorders.

The typical patient who enters a Comprehensive Balance Center has already encountered:

  • 4+ Physicians in search of help for a chronic balance problem
  • 1 Imaging series
  • 1 Emergency Room visit, possibly with hospital admission
  • 1 Referral for psychiatric evaluation
  • 50+ Months in search of a solution

The NeuroCom® Smart Balance Master system provides accurate information that helps accurately analyze a patient’s functional problem by assessing sensory and motor functions and its impact on daily functions. The objective quantification of balance and mobility disorders that you and your colleagues need to make informed clinical decisions.

The advanced computerized assessment tools of NeuroCom® Smart Balance Master system differentiate among the sensory and motor impairments that contribute to balance problems and limit patients’ daily activities, including:

  • Ineffective use of vestibular, somatosensory, and/or visual inputs to balance
  • Ineffective use of vestibular and visual systems for gaze control
  • Delayed, weak, and/or asymmetric automatic motor responses
  • Inappropriate use of movement strategies
  • Delayed, restricted, and/or fragmented voluntary motor responses
  • Impaired center of gravity alignment and control
  • Impaired planning and coordination of weight transfers

“An evidence based treatment approach to assessment and remedial training of central and peripheral balance impairments is the best and most cost effective means of reducing fall risk and associated post injury morbidity and mortality.”

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