June 25, 2008

Nearly 8,000 U.S. Deaths From Senior Falls

Traumatic brain injuries due to falls caused nearly 8,000 U.S. deaths and 56,000 hospitalizations in 2005 among people 65 and older, officials said.

A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report, published in the June issue of the Journal of Safety Research, said traumatic brain injuries are caused by a bump or blow to the head. However, they may be missed or misdiagnosed among older adults.

Traumatic brain injury often results in long-term cognitive, emotional, and/or functional impairments. In 2005, traumatic brain injuries accounted for 50 percent of unintentional fall deaths and 8 percent of nonfatal fall-related hospitalizations among seniors.

Falls are not an inevitable consequence of aging, but they do occur more often among older adults because risk factors for falls are usually associated with health and aging conditions. Some of these conditions include mobility problems due to muscle weakness or poor balance, loss of sensation in feet, chronic health conditions, vision changes or loss, medication side effects or drug interactions, and home and environmental hazards such as clutter or poor lighting.

Most people think older adults may only break their hip when they fall, but our research shows that traumatic brain injuries can also be a serious consequence, Dr. Ileana Arias, director of CDC?s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, said in a statement.