Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman, L.L.C.

Study attempts to determine causes of elderly slips and falls

If you are one of the many Pittsburgh residents who are caring for an elderly parent, you are probably familiar with the constant fear that your loved one will suffer an accidental fall and seriously injure him- or herself. That fear would not be unfounded - scientific data indicates that accidental falls are one of the leading causes of injury and death in people over the age of 65 in the U.S. and around the world.

Despite this number, researchers and medical professionals have long struggled with determining when, how and why these slips and falls take place. To learn more about this epidemic, a team of researchers began 24-hour video monitoring of an assisted living facility in order to determine the causes of and circumstances surrounding slip and fall incidents.

Over the course of the research, about 230 falls were caught on videos. The majority of the accidents happened simply because the residents lost their balance. However, researchers found that there was more at play than met the eye. Three-fourths of elderly residents reported that they used a wheelchair or a walker on a regular basis, but only 20 percent of those residents that suffered a fall were using their walker or wheelchair when the accident happened.

A large number of those incidents took place during "transition periods," such as when the residents were moving from their walker or wheelchair to a chair in the dining room, for example. This indicates that staff may need to develop a better transitioning system.

Another cause was the common physiological ailments that plagued residents, such as impaired vision or muscle weakness. In addition, many of the residents are on medication, which can also cause them to lose their balance.

Hopefully, this data helps nursing home facilities develop better fall prevention systems in order to avoid unnecessary injury or death.

Source: NPR, "Loss of balance is leading cause of elderly falls," Jessica Stoller-Conrad, Oct. 17, 2012

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