In the first installment of this multi-part blog, I relate the scope of the problems that lead to older adults falling and injuring themselves in the bathroom. Subsequent installments will then detail the two issues that cause these problems to go unresolved until, in many cases, it is too late.
Exactly How Big is the Problem In Your Bathroom?
One in every three adults age 65 and older falls each year. Falls can lead to moderate injuries, such as bruises, sprains and strains, or more serious injuries such as hip fractures (my mom), broken bones (Harry’s dad) and head traumas. Every one of these injuries will increase the risk of early death (such as the series of iatrogenic conditions that led to my mother’s death).
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) casually states: “… fortunately, falls are a public health problem that is largely preventable.” Easier said than done! Especially if we are not aware of the problem and are not knowledgeable about how to prevent the injuries! Just ask me or any one of the millions of others who have experienced the trauma of a fall-related injury to a loved one. This is, in part, why my company has trademarked the tagline “Call Before You Fall®.”
Something has to happen for people to pay attention to the real risk. Right now, prevention is not a critical part of the process for safe aging in America, and when the fall and related injury occurs, it is often too late, like it was with my mom. So exactly how big is the problem?
The CDC is the authoritative source for accident and health information. These statistics are taken straight from their report:
- One out of three adults age 65 and older falls each year. That’s over 20 million a year! And that will steadily increase to over 26 million a year as the baby boomers age!
- Among those age 65 and older, falls are the leading cause of injury or death. Falls are also the most common cause of nonfatal injuries and hospital admissions for trauma.
- In 2007, over 18,000 older adults died from unintentional fall injuries. That rose to 20,000 in 2009, and the number is well over that now.
- The death rate from falls among older men and women has risen sharply over the past decade, and is projected to continue to increase with the aging population.
- In 2000, direct medical costs of falls totaled over $19 billion. Based on today’s population, that’s over $26 billion every year!!
Here is the CDC statistic that really stopped me in my tracks:
- In 2009, 2.2 million nonfatal fall injuries among older adults were treated in emergency departments and more than 581,000 of these patients were hospitalized. In other words, there were 2.2 million seriously injured people just like my mom in 2009!
Once I’d seen these figures I did some simple math. And I’ll bet you have probably heard somebody somewhere cite my numbers, because once I did the math and started putting these figures in my articles, website, videos, and in the media, many others have cited my calculations to make the point.
The lowest common denominator sometimes can be the most powerful. So here we go:
2.2 million medically treated fall-related injuries per year (we are not even talking about the millions of other falls and injuries that are not formally treated by a doctor). Keep in mind that to be counted, the injury must be reported, and to be reported requires formal medical treatment. So, many falls are never reported, and are NOT part of this number.
2.2 million injuries a year divided by 365 days means 6,027 fall related injuries requiring formal medical treatment every day. Wow, 6,027 fall related injuries a day sounds a little more compelling. But let’s go deeper.
If we take 6,027 per day divided by 24 hours this equals over 251 fall related injuries per hour, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year! So, during the time of your lunch break every day, 251 seniors fall and hurt themselves so severely they are treated in hospitals due to their injuries.
Taking the calculation a step further, seniors are falling and injuring themselves at the rate of 251 per hour divided by 60 minutes means 4 falls per minute.