Do Trip and Falls Happen Among the Elderly Because of Age?
The risk of falling increases as a person ages, according to a Colorado State University study on “Preventing Falls in the Elderly.” The increased risk is significant. In fact, as the National Floor Safety Institute reports, the rate of falls increases with each decade a person is alive. Also, the NFSI says, each year a full 30 percent of people ages 65 and older suffer a fall. Of those older folks who fall, 10 percent suffer a serious injury.
Even though women are more susceptible to fall injuries than men, all adults 65 and older are at greater risk of falling than younger people.
There are many reasons for this increased risk, including:
- Decreased strength
- Loss of bone mass
- Poor muscle tone
- Diminished flexibility
- Health problems that can impact balance or vision.
The elderly may also be more dependent upon a cane, walker or other assistive walking device. A fall can occur in situations where the device is jostled or fails to provide the support and stability that is necessary.
Falls can happen anywhere, although they are more likely to occur in the home. In fact, as “Preventing Falls in the Elderly” reports, greater than one-third of all fall accidents for elderly Americans occur as a result of environmental hazards in the home. According to the NFSI, each year more than 60 percent of nursing home residents will suffer a fall.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that many accidents that occur in the home (or in a facility such as a nursing home) happen in the bathroom. These injuries occur due to slick floors, slippery tub and shower surfaces and an absence of grab bars which would make it possible for the elderly to safely use the tub, shower or toilet.
Other top causes of slips and falls among the elderly include:
- Cracks in sidewalks or on driveways
- Abrupt edges on sidewalks and driveways
- Stairs lacking in sufficient handrails or safe/wide treads
- High doorway thresholds
- Shrubs on sidewalks or on the path to the home
- Cluttered walkways
- Icy surfaces
- Inadequate lighting
- Changes in surface types or levels
- Throw rugs or unsecure rugs
- Slippery floors
- Appliance cords or other cords in walking paths.
While many of these falls occur in the home or in nursing homes, the elderly are also at great risk in stores, shopping malls, doctors’ office buildings and on public sidewalks.
Types of Injuries that Occur Due to Slips and Falls among the Elderly
When the elderly suffer a slip and fall, the injuries are very likely to be serious.
In fact, the data shows that a slip-and-fall injury can be devastating for an older American:
- The NFSI reports that falls are the second leading cause of injury-related death for people ages 65-84. For those over 85, falls are the top causes of death from injury.
- According to “Preventing Falls in the Elderly,” two-thirds of seniors who fall once will fall again within six months.
- Approximately 25 percent of people in elderly communities who are ages 75 and up will unnecessarily restrict their activities as a result of fear of falling.
- The majority of the lifetime costs of treating people 65 and older for injuries are incurred after a fall.
- One-fourth of elderly adults who suffer a hip fracture in a fall will die within six months of their injury.
When a senior is lucky enough to survive a slip or a fall, some of the common injuries that can occur include:
- Bone fractures/broken bones – Falls cause 87 percent of bone fractures among adults ages 65 and older.
- Brain injury – Falls are the second leading cause of brain injury for adults 65 and up.
- Spinal cord injury – Falls are the second leading cause of spinal injury for seniors.
- Hip fractures – “Preventing Falls in the Elderly” indicates that one of every 200 falls among those ages 65-69 result in a hip fracture. Those over 85 are between 10 and 15 times more likely to suffer a hip fracture than younger adults. One in ten falls will likely result in a fracture. Half of all seniors 65 and up who go to the hospital for a hip fracture are never able to return home.
Other injuries can include cuts and lacerations, back injuries, shoulder injuries, head and neck injuries and joint injuries.
Who is to Blame for Slip and Fall Accidents?
In some cases, a slip-and-fall accident is an unavoidable event. In other instances, however, a third party is responsible for causing the slip and fall as a result of negligence or carelessness.
Some examples of situations where someone else might be responsible for a slip and fall include when a:
- Sidewalk or parking lot has dangerous cracks, uneven surfaces or ice.
- Store, doctor’s office, restaurant or other property has slippery floors, cluttered aisles or unsafe spaces.
- Property manager or owner has failed to keep his or her property safe and properly maintained, causing dangerous conditions like defective or hazardous stairs or railings.
- Nursing home fails to provide a safe environment and supervision for elderly residents.
In these and other situations, the person or entity responsible for the slip and fall can become liable for paying damages to the injured senior. If the slip and fall caused death, the surviving family members can take legal action to obtain wrongful death damages.
Compensation for a slip and fall can include medical costs and bills, lost financial earnings, pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of quality of life, loss of companionship and funeral costs, plus other expenses and items of damages.
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