Ever wonder what the leading causes of non-fatal injuries are to older Americans? Us too!
So we decided to dig deep into the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) statistics to uncover the 10 leading causes of unintentional injuries that led to an emergency room visit.
10 LEADING CAUSES OF NON FATAL INJURIES RESULTING IN ER VISITS FOR THE 65+
- Falls 70%
- Struck By or Against Something 6%
- Overexertion 4%
- Motor Vehicle Accident 4%
- Cut or stabbing 4%
- Poisoning 3%
- Other Specified 3%
- Bite or Sting 2%
- Other Transportation 2%
- Unknown / Unspecified 2%
Looking at the data, one thing clearly stands out. Falls account for the overwhelming number of accidents sending the 65+ to the emergency room and it's not even close.
The next largest risk, being struck by or against something (hit by a car or bike, walking into a cabinet or door, etc…), is less than a factor of 10, when compared to falls - a very distant second place.
According to the CDC data 25% of older adults report falling per year, of which over 20% end up in the emergency room! That’s where all your efforts should go to reduce your chances of ending up in the ER for an injury.
3 FALL PREVENTION STRATEGIES & TACTICS
So what are some of the things you can actually do to prevent falling? Here are some of the most effective and impactful measures you can take that are in your control (speak to your doctor before doing anything):
- Exercise or Physical Therapy
- Get your balance, strength and flexibility back
- General strength training, work out 2-3 times per week (building muscle mass prevents falls)
- Some of the best exercises to prevent falls are the sit to stand, walk the line, stand on one leg
- If you prefer activities, try Tai Chi, Yoga, Pilates, Pickle Ball, swimming or brisk walking
- See if your medicare advantage plan covers a fitness program like Silver Sneakers
- Adjusting Medications (must speak and work with your doctor)
- Review and discuss medications that make you sleepy, groggy or dizzy
- Explore alternative dosages, frequency or medications
- Review your medications to see if any are no longer recommended by the American Geriatrics Society
- Home Modifications
- Add proper lighting in hallways and bedrooms (including nightlights)
- Add grab bars by toilets, bathtubs and showers
- Add handrails by all steps and stairs
- Remove clutter from walking paths
- Remove or tape down corners of area rugs
For those living alone and worried about falling and getting access to help consider one of several technologies that can be helpful and give you peace of mind, like a life alert system, cameras, smart watch or a smart speaker (Amazon Echo).
So what's our biggest takeaway after reviewing the data on the leading causes of 65+ unintentional injuries?
Falls are the leading cause of injuries sending older adults to the emergency room by a long shot. However, there's a lot you can do to prevent falling.
If all you do is exercise, review your medications and make some simple changes to your home, you'd reduce your chances of falling significantly. Perhaps most importantly, you'd improve your chances of enjoying your life as well, by maintaining your ability to age in your own home, remain independent, active, social and engaged. Who wouldn't want that!