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Falls Account for High Rates of Brain Injury in Elderly, Study Finds

Falls are scary no matter what age you are, but they are particularly dangerous among older adults. In fact, falls are the number one cause of accidental death, brain injury and hospital admissions among the elderly in the United States.

According to a new report by government researchers, rates of brain trauma and concussions from falls in our senior population have soared in recent years, hitting record levels since 2007.

Fall-related brain injuries

It’s well known that older people are more susceptible to fall-related injuries than their younger counterparts. This is because most seniors become more sedentary as they age, are more likely to have impaired vision and no longer have the agility and quick reflexes to regain balance. In addition, the majority of older Americans are taking some type of prescription medication – including antidepressants, diabetes medications, sedatives, and heart drugs – that can cause low blood pressure, fatigue and dizziness.

Whatever the culprit, the rates of fall-related brain injuries among our seniors are alarming. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently reported that 1 in every 45 Americans age 75 or older sustained brain injuries leading to hospitalization or death in 2013. This figure marks a 76 percent spike compared to 2007.

More older Americans living at home

The researchers found that elderly people who choose to live at home are falling more often, putting them at greater risk for concussions and other physical harm. However, they are often reluctant to tell their loved ones about repeated tumbles for fear of losing their independence. Older family members may downplay a slip in the bathtub or a tumble down the stairs, but in doing so, they may not be getting the urgent medical attention necessary to diagnose and treat head injuries.

Research shows that one fall usually leads to others, and in one published study, more than 33 percent of seniors who suffered minor head injuries wound up back in the emergency room within 3 months.

Why are more elderly falling?

Besides OTC and prescription medications that worsen balance, an overall decline in physical fitness, and impaired vision, these are some of the other factors that contribute to falls in elderly:

  • Health conditions such as dementia, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s disease, peripheral neuropathy and arthritis
  • Environmental hazards in the home including cluttered floors, loose carpeting or rugs, poor lighting or a lack of handrails
  • Surgeries like hip or knee replacements can leave the elderly weak and less mobile

Given that more seniors prefer to live in their own home (or with a family member) for as long as possible, how do we reduce fall risk and provide the safest environment for older adults. Many would argue that a nursing home or assisted living facility would provide optimum care, but research has shown that seniors are falling in nursing homes as well.

Legal advocacy for elderly in California

Regular medical evaluations as well as home and lifestyle modifications can help prevent many fall-related injuries among seniors.  When an accidental fall leads to life-threatening harm and negligence is suspected, it’s wise to speak with a seasoned attorney at law.

Ellis Law provides superior advocacy in cases involving nursing home falls and other incidents leading to brain injury, concussion, hospitalization and death. Contact a Los Angeles traumatic brain injury lawyer at our firm to explore your options for legal recourse. Call 1-800-INJURED today.

Additional Resources on Dangers of Falls in Elderly:

  1. AP News, Falls are taking a huge and rising toll on elderly brains https://apnews.com/2376a4a191d64339a83e93d3864af075/sharp-rise-brain-injuries-seen-elderly-falls
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Traumatic Brain Injury–Related Emergency Department Visits, Hospitalizations, and Deaths — United States, 2007 and 2013 https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/66/ss/ss6609a1.htm?s_cid=ss6609a1_w