I’ve just finished reading Bracing for the Falls of an Aging Nation, uploaded a few hours ago on the New York Times website. Long time readers of this blog, AsOurParentsAge, know that I’ve been keenly interested in falls, and I’ve written about them often (see a list of links at the end of this post). My husband’s parents experienced some terrible falls, and one lead within to my father-in-law’s death a month or so afterward.
The Times article, by Katie Hafner, datelined in San Francisco, describes the increasing frequency of elder falls and the challenges presented, principally in one community for older adults. This is a long and detailed article, periodically quoting elder experts in the field and highlighting that many older adults, even the parents of some of these experts, continue to reject canes, walkers, and other supports that offer them greater balance. The report includes several excellent graphics.
I continue to be surprised, though, at how often people in the article and the comments refer to medical alert devices. Not my parents, not my husband’s parents, and not any elder parents that I know wishes to use these. Some use them and then put them away, some refuse them, and some wear them off and on. This tells me that the solution is wrong.
- The dangers are real. The number of people over 65 who died after a fall reached nearly 24,000 in 2012, the most recent year for which fatality numbers are available — almost double the number 10 years earlier, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- Geriatricians often refer to the gradual narrowing in an elderly person’s life. Travel tapers off, so that trips out-of-town grow rare and, sequentially, so do trips beyond the neighborhood, house, bedroom and bed.
- A rough rule of thumb for nurses and physicians is that for every day an elderly patient spends in bed, 1 percent of muscle mass is lost. “You’d be surprised how quickly it can go below the point where you can safely stand up and move,” said Nancy K. Latham, an assistant professor at the Boston University School of Public Health who studies disability.
My Past Blog Posts on Falls
- Eurhythmics, Aging-Elders and Falls
- Different Falls – Different Interventions
- Aging Parents: Death from Falls, Part I (Part I of a series)
- Aging Parents: Death from Falls: Some Observations (Part II of the series)
- Aging Parents: Falls and In-Time Prevention (Part III of the series)
- Making Our Home Safer: For Aging Parents and for Ourselves
- Seniors, Exercise, and Preventing Falls