Has an elderly loved one mentioned a fall-related injury in a nursing home or assisted-living facility in San Diego County? Or, have you learned that an elderly parent suffered a fall while under the care of a nursing home staff? Falls often result from nursing home neglect, and it is important to ensure that our elderly loved ones are safe from preventable accidents and injuries. According to a recent article in the Chicago Tribune, fall-related injuries are becoming a more serious concern in California and throughout the country. One researcher in particular, Jon Pynoos, emphasizes that falls really are preventable. What should you know about falls among the elderly and learning about new methods of prevention?
Paying Greater Attention to Falls Among the Elderly
As the article notes, about “one-third of seniors over 65 fall each year, causing more than 2.5 million injuries treated in ERs, leading to 734,000 hospitalization and more than 30,200 deaths, with an annual price tag exceeding $40 billion.” Those rates will only increase as the U.S. population continues to age, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC estimates that deaths from falls among the elderly will rise to around 100,000 per year—a number that is four times the current rate of fall-related fatalities. Given these numbers, both government and private funding sources to study fall prevention have helped to make new research possible.
According to Kathleen Cameron, who currently serves as the senior director of the National Falls Prevention Resource Center for the National Council on Aging, both the Administration for Community Living within the U.S. Health Department and the Affordable Care Act “are financing fall prevention programs along with state public health agencies.” Since more money is going toward fall prevention, that fact alone is helping to raise awareness about fall-related risks. Currently, as Cameron points out, 80 percent of U.S. states have “fall prevention coalitions.” But is awareness enough? Or do we need certain figures to take more steps to prevent nursing home neglect and fall-related injuries?
Determining the Cause of Falls and the Impact of Intervention Methods
Some safety advocates believe physicians could be doing more to help prevent falls. For instance, Cameron suggests that more doctors should screen their elderly patients for fall-related risks. As she explains, “the most difficult obstacle is the widespread belief that falls are a normal part of aging and cannot be prevented.” How might we do better to prevent falls in San Diego County and elsewhere in the country? According to Dr. Thomas Gill of the Yale School of Medicine, we need to do more to tailor fall-prevention techniques to individual persons. Given that “falls are a complex geriatric condition that arises because of a confluence of different factors, ranging from visual impairment and balance disorders to medication use that may impair cognition or lower blood pressure,” according to Gill, a general fall-prevention plan cannot always help every nursing home patient in the same way.
At the same time, however, simply getting more facilities to understand that a majority of falls are preventable is the first step. Jon Pynoos, who currently serves as co-director of the Fall Prevention Center of Excellence in Los Angeles and as a professor at USC’s Leonard Davis School of Gerontology, explains, there are numerous fall-related risks in houses and facilities that many people simply do not recognize. What can we do about these risks? Pynoos suggests that the onus is on a number of different people to prevent falls, from caregivers to pharmacists to physicians. In short, everyone involved in a senior’s life can take note of fall-related risks and can take steps to mitigate them.
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