FALLS IN SENIORS

BY DR. JULIAN LIMĀ 

As we age, muscle mass and balance deteriorate with time leading to a host of problems for seniors. According to Canada public health, falls are the leading cause of age related hospital admissions for seniors accounting for 85% of injury related visits each year. Falls are the leading cause of injuries among Canadians 65 years and over. It is currently estimated that for Canadian seniors between 20% and 30% will experience a fall each year. This is significant as research suggests that falls are a direct cause of 95% of all hip fractures, leading to death in 20% of cases.

Figure 1 Estimated rates of injuries from all causes vs. injuries due to a fall by age group, age 12+, Canada, 2003, 2005, 2009/10 (95% CIs shown)

Statistics Canada. Canadian community health survey – annual component (CCHS). Health Survey. Ottawa: Statistics Canada; 2012. Report No.: 3226.

Figure 2 Type of fall-related injury, age 65+, Canada 2009/10

Statistics Canada. Canadian community health survey – annual component (CCHS). Health Survey. Ottawa: Statistics Canada; 2012. Report No.: 3226.

What usually causes them?

  • Vision problems
  • Weaker leg and hip muscles
  • Poor posture can lead to degenerative spinal changes making it harder to stand straight
  • Slower reaction time
  • Low blood pressure
  • Medication interactions

Where do they occur?

According to research falls occur predominately at home and if seniors happen to be by themselves without aid nearby it can be a very difficult and traumatic situation for them.

Fig 3 Fall-related hospitalizations, by place of occurrence of fall, age 65+, Canada, pooled across all fiscal years

Canadian Institute for Health Information. Hospital Morbidity Database (HMDB) [Internet]. Ottawa: Canadian Institute for Health Information. Available from: http://www.cihi.ca/CIHI-ext-portal/internet/en/document/ types+of+care/hospital+care/acute+care/hmdb_metadata

Fear of falling and quality of life

As with any injury it is natural to have some tendency to avoid any activities that seniors fear will cause them to be injured again. However the opposite is usually true. By limiting their activities seniors become more likely to lose more strength and mobility than if they continued their activities which increases their chances of being re-injured. The best way to avoid re-injury is for seniors to keep active.

What can seniors do to help themselves?

Seniors can work with:

  • General fitness exercises (such as walking and swimming)
  • Range of motion and strength exercises
  • Motion Desensitization exercises
  • Balance exercises
  • Eye tracking exercises