With aging parents on my mind a lot these days, I am extra clued into sickness, decline, and factors that contribute to the end of an elderly person’s life. Frequently I ask two questions. Why do falls have such a strong association with the death of people over age 65, and why isn’t prevention more effective? See Steve Lohr’s 11/7/09 article in the NY Times.
Anyone can go to the CDC’s Center for Injury Prevention and Control, search in the over-65 age range, and generate this chart. What is interesting is that the number of unintentional falls leading to death (16,650) exceeds the combined total of the next five leading unintentional causes — (a total of 16,068 from motor-vehicles, unspecified causes, suffocation, and fire/burns).
Since the fall and subsequent death of a friend four months ago, I have made a conscious effort to learn an elderly person’s cause of death, whether by conversation or obituary. the count is now over 30, and in each a fall appeared to be the beginning of a precipitous decline leading to death, though most of these people had other medical conditions.
In Part II of Aging Parents: Death from Falls, I’ll address the various strategies and training that engaged our parents. If you are interested in this topic, something I am passionate about, consider reading the following related posts.