Death, Disability, Institutionalization--All Preventable Consequences of Falls

Mobility Devices and Good Caregivers Facilitate Recovery and Deter More Falls

Nariman Malik, BSc

Falls in the elderly are a common problem, and often can have serious sequelae. The physical injuries that may be sustained after a fall can lead to hospitalization or even institutionalization. Falls are often considered to be an inevitable consequence of aging; however, they may in fact signal the onset of an illness or an underlying cause of frailty.1

Falls are a significant cause of disability and death in older persons.2 Fractures are a result in 3-5% of cases.3 The most serious fracture in the elderly is the hip fracture, which often requires surgical repair, a procedure which itself is plagued by a high incidence of morbidity and mortality.3 A fall may also lead to immobility which can lead to dehydration, rhabdomyolysis and pressure ulceration. Falls can also often lead to a fear of falling, which may result in withdrawal from usual activities and even social isolation and/or depression which ultimately results in both decreased mobility and a loss of independence.2,4 Primary care physicians managing elderly patients should be prepared to assess appropriately patients who have fallen, and strive to develop a management plan tailored to meet patients' needs.