Fall prevention gets harder when elderly leave hospital

More efforts are needed to prevent falls among the elderly, especially those just discharged from the hospital, Australian researchers say.

Older adults have a greater risk of falling to begin with. But this risk heightens considerably within the first six months of a hospital release, authors note in Age and Ageing.

More than half of those who do fall during this period suffer serious injury, such as hip fractures, they say.

Exercise interventions, vitamin supplementation and patient education about high-risk scenarios are known to reduce the risk of falling for elderly people in general. But in a new review of previous research, the Australian team found that these strategies were not as effective in older people following hospital discharge.

Full story at Reuters

How to Prevent Falls

It’s that time of year again when safety-conscious organizations issue cautionary tales about preventing falls and, failing that, protecting against serious injury when suddenly descending unintentionally from the vertical.

Even if you think you already know everything you need to know about falling, you’d be wise to read on. Many of us can use a periodic kick in the pants to help keep us safe. I know, because I’m one of those prone to doing something foolhardy even while thinking how dumb it is.

Case in point: Having just read a ream of background information about the risks of falling and its exorbitant costs, both personal and financial, I did something utterly stupid. I stood on the edge of the bathtub in my slippers to clean the top of the surrounding tiles. I got away unscathed this time, but I’ve promised myself never to try that again. As a much younger friend reminded me, a little household dirt never killed anyone, but landing hard on bathroom fixtures is a common cause of fall-related injuries and even deaths among people of all ages, and especially those in and beyond their seventh decade.

Full story at the New York Times

The Older Adult’s Guide to Cold Weather

Cold weather brings special risks for older adults. In the Division of Geriatrics at Montefiore Health System in the Bronx, New York, our team works to educate our patients and their families and caregivers about keeping safe in the cold weather.

The most frequent winter injuries we see are due to patients slipping and falling. Nationwide, the data show that the risk of hip fractures rises significantly in the winter because of falls on ice and snow. Unfortunately, I frequently see seniors who try to be careful by limiting their outdoor activities in the winter but then end up slipping on their front steps or when taking out the trash. To avoid this, we encourage all adults to wear boots with non-skid soles even on short trips outside and to be certain their walkway is clear and treated with sand or salt. If using a cane, it’s important to be certain that the rubber tip has been replaced before it has worn out. Also, some health professionals recommend using specialized tips for canes and walkers that are designed to provide extra traction on the ice. However, the safest plan is to avoid walking on slippery surfaces.

Full story at US News

Wireless home network can detect falls by elderly, call for help

University of Utah engineers say a home wireless network can detects falls by the elderly without requiring them to wear monitoring devices.

The monitoring technology could be linked to a service that would call emergency help in the case of a fall, a leading cause of death for people 65 and older, they said.

A 2008 study showed 80 percent of elderly adults who owned wearable call buttons didn’t use the device when they had a serious fall, largely because they hadn’t worn it at the time of the accident, a university release reported Monday.

Utah engineers Brad Mager and Neal Patwari say they’ve developed a fall-detection system using a two-level array of radio-frequency sensors placed around the perimeter of a room at two heights that correspond to someone standing or lying down.

Anyone standing — or falling — inside the network alters the path of signals sent between each pair of sensors, they said.

Full story of wireless network to detect elderly falls at UPI.com

Preventing falls up to entire community

Elderly Fall Prevention within the CommunityThe community-based, grassroots approach that made Mothers Against Drunk Driving successful in curbing impaired driving is needed to prevent falls among the elderly, says a kinesiologist.

Falls prevention isn’t a health-care problem, says Alan Salmoni, a professor at Western University who taught at Laurentian University for more than 25 years.

“If you don’t have the community on board … it isn’t going to work,” Salmoni said during the lunch break at an all-day forum on falls prevention held by the North East Local Health Integration Network and Laurentian University.

Falls prevention doesn’t work unless you involve everyone from those who do snow removal to the mayor, said Salmoni.

About 6,000 people in northeastern Ontario, most of them seniors, visit hospital emergency departments every year because of falls. About one in five is hospitalized as a result.

If we continue to think falls prevention is a health-care system problem, “we’re not going to get very far because it can’t possibly be solved that way,” said Salmoni, “because that’s not where the problem is.”

Full story of fall prevention at The Sudbury Star

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