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Among seniors, falls cause twice as many deaths as car accidents each year

National Injury Prevention Day, July 5, a time to remind that falls cause twice as many deaths among seniors as motor vehicle accidents. Follow prevention tips to ensure you're doing your best to prevent falls at home or out in the community.
SeniorFalls
Falls account for a huge number of hospitalizations and deaths among seniors, numbers show. Photo: Metro Creative Connection

Getting injured can occur anywhere; at home, in the workplace or while out walking. According to the Canadian Kinesiology Alliance, the number of fall-related hospitalizations and mortality rates due to falls has increased 47 per cent over the past decade; meaning death due to falls by seniors now widely surpasses deaths by motor vehicle accident (4,849 fall-related deaths versus just under 2,000 for vehicle accidents).

The data is telling. Every day, 48 Canadians die and 634 are hospitalized because of falls, making it the leading cause of injury deaths and hospitalizations. For seniors, the numbers are even more stark. Each day on average in the country, 13 seniors die and 259 are hospitalized following a fall. It's no wonder the Kinesiology Alliance is sounding the alarm bells about the devastating effects of predictable and preventable injuries, especially among seniors and those affected by the pandemic.

FALL-RELATED INJURIES AMONG SENIORS

According to the World Health Organization, about a third of seniors fall each year. This results in 85% of injury-related hospitalizations, 95% of all hip fractures and 61% of injury deaths for older Canadians. Among this group, women, those aged 80 or older, and older people who live alone or have low income are more at risk when it comes to falling. Falls on the same level (slipping, tripping or stumbling), falls involving furniture and falls on stairs are the top three types of falls that lead to serious injury and death among seniors.

PREVENTION IS KEY

Falls among seniors are preventable; however, addressing this growing public health problem is a shared responsibility. Progress in the prevention of falls and their resulting injuries require continued collaboration by governments, healthcare providers, non-government organizations, care associations and services, and Canadians themselves, asserts the Alliance.

“Over the past two years, many seniors were confined to their home and had limited chances to be physically active," said Angelie Carter, president of the Canadian Kinesiology Alliance. "We need to ensure seniors can get back to a more active lifestyle as quickly as possible if we want to prevent an increase in falls in the following years, a number that is already too high."

Carter says through safe physical activities that challenge balance, seniors can strengthen their hips and their legs to prevent falling. And, health experts like a kinesiologist can provide information about the impact of dehydration, low blood sugar, and medical conditions that can cause someone to fall.

“On top of working out regularly, the environment where people live is also key as half of falls resulting in hospitalization occur in a household residence," added Carter. "This is why it is important to assess someone’s home for fall hazards and help them make it safer. Health professionals can evaluate the fall risk in someone’s home and help make changes to ensure safety.”

The Canadian Kinesiology Alliance has prevention information on its website, at www.cka.ca. The organization also offers guidelines for seniors and all moving forward after the pandemic with Moving Forward with COVID-19 - Kinesiology Guidelines.

 

TIPS TO PREVENT FALLS

  • Do balance exercises and resistance exercises that focus on the upper legs, hips and core strength (such as tai chi, water aerobics, chair yoga and strength exercises with weights).

  • Safe proof your home to minimize the risks (removing throw rugs, adding lighting on the stairs, installing sturdy handrail, etc.).

  • Stay hydrated.

  • Maintain a balanced diet.

  • Monitor medication as some might be contributing to feeling dizzy or falling.