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The number of
The number of visits to
Some of the rise appears to be explained by the estimated 21 percent growth in the state's senior population, from about 4.28 million in 2010 to 5.19 million in 2015, according to the
The ranks of people 85 and older, who account for one-third of all fall-related ER visits, are also swelling: That population grew by 19 percent in the same five-year period, according to the department's data.
In addition to their growing numbers, older adults nationwide have multiple chronic diseases and are taking numerous medications, both of which can contribute to falling, according to the
"These kinds of things really affect the oldest of the old," said
Nationwide, about 2.8 million older adults are treated in emergency departments each year for injuries caused by falling, and more than 800,000 are hospitalized because of them, according to the
Medical costs associated with falls are more than $31 billion each year, with hospital care accounting for about two-thirds of those expenses, according to the
Fall-related injuries are particularly worrisome because they can lead to other problems, including immobility and even premature death, said
"It is often when the real decline really starts to happen," Chan said. "They may never quite fully recover."
He said elderly patients who have serious falls need to be seen in the emergency room because they may have significant injuries requiring immediate medical attention. Doctors also need to determine why they fell.
"It may not be that they just tripped over something," Chan said. "It could be related to their heart or blood pressure."
Certain groups are more likely to end up in the emergency room after a fall, including homeless people, nursing home residents, people who live alone, and those of very advanced age, said Pynoos, the
"I went face first into the flower bed," said Lynch, a retired hospital clerk.
A neighbor heard her yell and called 911. At the emergency room, doctors told her she had broken her wrist. Going to the emergency room assured her she didn't have an even more serious injury, she said.
"You can have a lot of things wrong with you internally that you don't even know," she said. "Peace of mind to an older person is worth more than anything else."
Some counties saw sharper increases than others in the number of fall-related emergency room visits by seniors. From 2010 to 2015, the number rose 54 percent in
The problem could worsen, as 10,000 baby boomers turn 65 every day in
There are several programs that have been proven to reduce fall rates or the fear of falling, according to the
"The one good thing is there is more awareness," Pynoos said. "But people have to practice what they learn."
KHN's coverage in
(c)2017 Kaiser Health News
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