Published: Sept. 17, 2009
Updated: Sept. 17, 2009
While the laugh track on your favorite sitcom might have you believe that someone tripping on their own feet or stumbling down stairs is hilarious, fall-related injuries are no laughing matter.
Fall-related injuries are the number one reason people go to the Emergency Department at Duke. These injuries include bruises, abrasions, broken bones, sprains and strains, and traumatic brain injuries.
In 2007 alone, the North Carolina Division of Public Health reported that 607 people in North Carolina lost their lives as a result of an injury from a fall -- that’s nearly two people per day.
Anyone can fall, but people over the age of 65 years are the most susceptible to falls, says Kimberly Bailey, Injury Prevention Coordinator for Duke University Hospital. In fact, falls are the number one cause of injury-related death in seniors.
Adverse effects from medicine, vision changes, deteriorating bones and loss of muscle tone all hinder balance and contribute to the high rate of falls in seniors.
While children have stronger bones and more mobility, falls are also the primary cause of injury in children and the number one reason kids report to the Emergency Department.
While the impact of a fall affects people differently, it's important to understand the seriousness of a fall and how it can create pain, distress, monetary loss, and even death.
Poor health can increase your likelihood to fall. But you can take small steps to protect yourself. These steps include:
Falls in the home are especially prevalent in older adults and seniors. Bailey suggests implementing the following guidelines to create a safer, fall-free environment in your home:
In addition to following those guidelines, the fire department or social services in your town can arrange a home safety inspection to highlight fall hazards and give advice on how to make your home safer.
If you lose consciousness, hit your head, or suspect a broken bone after you've had a fall, you should call 911 or report to the Emergency Department immediately.
For less serious falls, seek medical attention after 48 hours if the pain persists.
Duke University Health System has implemented a number of quality and safety procedures to prevent falls for patients in the hospitals and clinics.
Identification bands and posters notify nurses and staff of patients who are at-risk for a fall. Nurses have a checklist of fall-prevention measures that they run through every shift for high-risk patients. Posters in adult and pediatric inpatients rooms and outpatient areas offer tips for avoiding falls.
For more information about fall prevention at Duke, read “Going Steady: Fall Prevention.”