Complications Associated with Falls in Senior Citizens
January 5, 2015
Falls are extremely common for those over the age of 65. In fact, if statistics are to be believed, nearly a third of people 65 or older – and half of people over 80! – will be injured in a fall. And if those numbers sound bad, consider this: most experts believe the real number to be quite a bit higher, because most falls that don't cause serious injury go unreported. Regardless of whether they get reported or not, falling is undoubtedly one of the most important causes of serious and permanent medical conditions in the elderly.
Understanding the Statistics of Falling
Before understanding and explaining how falls actually affect the elderly, it is important to know the basic statistics behind this concept. As we age, the number of us that report falling increases. For example, if the percentage of elderly people falling between the ages of 65 and 69 is 13, it slowly increases to 31% for people aged between 81 and 84. Additionally, seniors who live at home and those who live alone fall more than others. Some studies have even reported that people with certain health conditions, especially those of the heart, are more susceptible to falling. Another important statistic worth knowing is that one fall usually leads to another, which means that once a person falls for the first time, the likelihood of falling again is increased.
Various Risk Factors Contributing Towards Falls in the Elderly
In order to better understand the complications caused by a fall, it is important to recognize the risk factors that are present in the lives of seniors which lead to such falls. These include biological factors, behavioral factors, external or environmental factors, and social factors. Age, gender, presence of a chronic or acute illness, problems with vision, weakness of the muscles, physical disability, and chronic ailments and impairments are often the reasons why falls are common in the elderly.
For instance, a woman over 65 years of age is more prone to falling than a woman who is 20 years of age. Similarly, someone who is suffering from Alzheimer's or a heart condition is more prone to falling than a person who is healthy. This also holds true for people with higher risk-taking behavior, as well as those who are alone and unattended – they are far more likely to fall than those who have someone to take care of them. Additionally, factors like impediments in the house, work, or outside also contribute to an increase in falling.
Complications Surrounding Falls
Falling often results in a loss of mobility, especially in cases where there is a fracture or other serious damage. Loss of mobility is something seniors dread because it translates to a lack of independence, which many have difficulty accepting. Falling, especially if it is frequent, also results in a lack of confidence. This again leads to a lack of independence, while increasing the extent to which the person is dependent on others. It is often seen that those who have suffered repeated falls tend to become anxious or frightened, preferring to stay where they are without attempting to stand or walk for fear of falling. Another complication caused by immobility, especially of a prolonged nature, is morbidity, especially in senior citizens.
Given the age factor, surgery is always a risk and the fear that disability might become permanent looms large. Hospitalization is often necessary, but this is yet another risk considering the age. In addition to all these factors, falling often results in severe dehydration, hypothermia, bronchial pneumonia, and more, all occurring due to the lack of mobility of the person.
Reasons Why Falls Become Serious or Complicated
The above discussion on the statistics of falling indicates that falling in the elderly community is a common occurence. But we also touched upon the fact that many more falls go unreported, and sometimes these can be even more dangerous. How? Because if they are unnoticed and unattended, any problems that might have been caused by these falls go untreated, often leading to complications. There are several reasons why falls amongst the elderly go unnoticed:
- Many falls go untreated simply because the senior doesn't report them to the caregiver, family members, or a doctor. This is mostly seen in cases where a person lives alone, but it also occurs in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Admitting to a fall is seen as leading to a loss of independence, which most seniors want to avoid at all costs.
- Secondly, in some cases, the fall does not result in obvious external injury which can be easily noticed. Under these circumstances, it becomes extremely difficult for the caregiver or doctor to provide immediate treatment.
- It is also possible that the caregiver or doctor is not thorough enough with his or her examination and has forgotten to ask relevant questions about the injury, fall, or accident, or doesn't take into account the personal history of such falls.
- Finally, sometimes caregivers and seniors don't believe fall to be that serious, seeing them as a normal and integral part of the aging process.
From the above discussion, it is absolutely clear that falling amongst the elderly can cause serious damage. While preventing the fall is the best solution, an immediate response will also go a long way in ensuring good health. Medical alert alarm systems are great ways of making sure that someone can respond to any such situation immediately, without really compromising the senior's independence.
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