Thursday, December 7

Falls, a mortal danger for the elderly

An elderly person uses a bar to walk around a residence. / CR

More than three thousand Spaniards over the age of 65 lost their lives due to a fall in 2020, 83% more than a decade ago


Trips, slips, distractions, dizziness… These are some of the reasons why older people suffer a fall that takes them to hospital emergencies, or worse. In 2020, the last year with official data, a total of 3,066 Spaniards over the age of 65 lost their lives due to a fall, 83% more than a decade ago. From 2011 to 2020, 28,844 people have died as a result of a fall and 80% were over 70 years of age.

It is women who mostly suffer falls (70%), which mainly occur during the day and at home, especially in the bedroom, bathroom and kitchen. More than half of the falls (58%) occur during the daily activity of the elderly and their interaction with the environment. And 15.4% is due to intrinsic factors, for example a loss of consciousness, a gait disorder, a visual deficit and the medication itself, since the abuse of medications to treat conditions such as anxiety and insomnia increases the risk of falls.

The data appears in the report ‘Falls in elderly people treated in Spanish emergency services’, which Fundación MAPFRE released today and which has studied the causes and consequences of the falls suffered by 1,610 people, as well as the adverse results in 1,388 of them for the following six months. The Emergencies of five hospitals have participated in the report: San Carlos Clinic in Madrid, General Hospital in Alicante, Barcelona Clinic, Bellvitge in Barcelona and Central Hospital in Asturias.

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According to the study, 20% of the elderly who suffer falls live alone and 75% were unaccompanied at the time of the fall, cannot get up on their own when they suffer this situation (66%), and have suffered a similar mishap in the previous 12 months (25%).

It also highlights that they suffer from cardiovascular diseases, such as hypertension (70%), osteoarthritis (47%), low visual acuity (61%) and depression (31%), among others.

The report confirms that falls increase mortality. Specifically, 1.6% of elderly people who have suffered a mishap of this type die as a direct consequence of the fall and 11% do so six months after discharge, which shows that the probability of dying someone over 80 years old increases up to seven times when they have suffered a fall.

It also causes significant functional impairment in daily life. In this sense, the report highlights that, as a direct consequence of the fall, 91% suffer an injury, mainly wounds (52%), fractures (38%) and head injuries (16%); that 47% are afraid of falling again; and that 20% need help to walk.

It also points out that, after the six-month follow-up, it was shown that 27% were dependent; that 11% had suffered a new fall; and that 4.5% had a fracture. While before the fall, 60.3% of the elderly were independent, after this situation, this percentage dropped to 50.3%, that is, 10% became dependent.

prepare the house

Experts believe that it is a mistake that we “naturalize” the falls suffered by older people as “inevitable”, since, as indicated, 58% of falls in this age group are due to extrinsic factors and that therefore they can be prevented. They also consider that it is key to make the elderly and their families aware of the high risk of a fall “and of the importance of adequately adapting their homes as they age.”

In this sense, experts recommend, for example, replacing the bathtub with a shower tray and raising the WC in the bathroom; remove or fasten the rugs well, maintain the floors well so that they are not slippery and to avoid loose tiles, as well as eliminate cables in the passageways, which can become “traps”, place the kitchenware kitchen in cabinets that are accessible, and clear the house so that mobility is as safe as possible.

They also advise that the elderly wear comfortable shoes to walk the streets and sidewalks, where they can find the pavement in poor condition; and exercise regularly.

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