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The true cost of a senior fall

March 27, 2018

Falling is an unfortunate fact of life more many seniors over the age of 65. Currently in the United States, the rate of falling for seniors is a staggering 1 in 3. While falling in theory doesn't seem like a major event, for those in the older generation it absolutely is.


In this post, we'll break down the risks associated with senior falls including the statistics, the most common fall injuries, timeline of a fall, and medical costs associated with falls.


Breaking down the statistics


We've mentioned that 1 in 3 seniors 65 and older fall each day, but did you know that 10,000 people each day turn 65? That means that of these 10,000 people, 3300 of them will experience a fall in their lifetime. Of this age group, those 75 and older are 4 times more likely to sustain a serious injury.


In 2009 alone, 2.2 million people went to the emergency room with fall related injuries. Of those, 1 in 4 were hospitalized. Falls in this age group are considered the leading cause of death by injury, nonfatal injury, traumatic brain injury, and hospital trauma admissions.


The difference in fall injury experienced by men and women is quiet vast as well. Men are 46% more like to die from a fall than women, and women are 58% more likely to sustain a non-fatal injury from a fall. Women are also twice as likely to suffer a fracture than men, and three times more likely to suffer a hip fracture.


Most common fall injuries


When a senior citizen falls, there are six common fractures that they sustain. These fractures are:

  • Upper arm fracture

  • Forearm fracture

  • Hand fracture

  • Spine fracture

  • Hip fracture

  • Pelvis fracture

  • Leg fracture

  • Ankle fracture

Timeline of a fall


Hour 1


It is extremely important for a senior that has suffered a fall to get immediate medical attention. Receiving timely medical attention can absolutely save their life.


The first hour after a senior falls is referred to as "The Golden Hour." It is referred to this way because if a senior that has fallen receives medical attention in this time period, the more likely they are to not only survive, but minimize their trauma. At this point, they are typically only adversely affected both those injuries sustained directly from the fall such as sprains, fractures and concussions.


It is a sad reality, but 62% of seniors that don't receive help during The Golden Hour are unable to live independently after recovery.


Hours 2 -3


If a senior doesn't receive help, the next two to three hours are often spent on the floor and in an uncomfortable position. This position may also exacerbate the injuries sustained in the fall.


Another often overlooked consequence of falling is that if the person doesn't receive help, they are likely unable to take their necessary scheduled medications. This could cause serious harm to some seniors.


Of those who don't receive help until this second or third hour, almost all cases required hospitalization. Additionally, 60% of those cases fell again within a year.


Hours 4 - 5


If the person hasn't received help by this point, hospitalization for at least a week is almost certain.


Incontinence, hunger and thirst also become major issues within the fourth and fifth hours of being unassisted after a fall.


Hours 6 - 11


Seniors who fall and haven't received help by this time period will almost certainly need to be hospitalized for a major time period of about two weeks.


Also, 90% of those unassisted by this time period will need nursing home care after recovery.


Hours 12 - 17


At this point, the hospital stay will double from two weeks to about four weeks for seniors that find themselves on the floor overnight after a fall.


There are also a host of new health complications that arise during this five hour time period which include:

Hours 18 - 23


As expected, when this point is reached the length of the hospital stay increases even more. It also is unlikely that the person will recover from the fall completely.


The health issues mentioned in hours 12 - 17 become exacerbated during this point as well.


Hours 24+


At this point, severe consequences become almost certain. The risk of hunger and dehydration becomes severe, and the probability of death dramatically increases.


At this point, the length of time spent on the floor may outweigh the initial injuries as the primary cause of death.


Cost of a fall


After a fall happens and the person has recovered, the next part must be dealt with. This is the medical costs of a senior fall.


Costs from a fall injury may come from a variety of things including

  • Hospital/nursing home fees

  • Doctor/specialist fees

  • Rehabilitation

  • Medical equipment purchase/rental

  • Prescription drugs

  • Home modifications

  • Insurance processing

The average cost of a fall injury totals up to about $19,000. The United States as a whole is expected to spend $54.9 billion on fall related medical costs.


The Good News!


Falls can be prevented and don't have to be an eventuality. There are numerous simple steps that can be taken from home arrangement to basic home modification.


To learn more about how to fall-proof your home, read this article.


If someone you know has recently experienced a fall, having them receive home health may be a good idea after they are discharged from the hospital. Home health agencies like ours offer skilled nursing and physical/occupational therapy to help seniors recover at home whenever possible.

Sunshine Home Care is an Altus, OK home health agency serving most of Western Oklahoma. For more information on our agency, visit here or contact us today.

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