CDC Identifies Risks of Falls as Public Health Peril for Elderly

When hazardous conditions such as a slippery floor or dangerous staircase cause a slip-and-fall injury, the harm can range from merely a bad bruise and embarrassment to a serious orthopedic injury. In many cases, these accidents can even lead to life-altering head or spinal injuries. Common sense reminds us that the older you are, the more likely an unexpected fall will cause serious injuries and lasting problems.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has compiled data on the frequency of falls among older adults that has led it to characterize slip-and-falls among the elderly as a public health problem that should be prevented.

Here are just a few of the startling statistics:

  • One of three adults 65-years or older falls every year
  • Falls are the leading cause of death among older Americans
  • In a recent year, over 18,000 fatalities resulted from injuries caused by falls
  • In 2009, injuries from falls led to 2.2 million emergency room visits
  • Nearly half of all fatal falls attributed to a traumatic brain injury

Even if the trauma of a severe fall doesn't lead directly to death, it can take a long-term toll on an elderly person's health. Hip fractures and concussions are just two examples of the type of injuries that can occur during falls, both making it harder for an older adult to live independently as they once used to.

The CDC recommends a series of strategies to lessen the chance of falling by elderly Americans. Regular exercise, eye exams, and proper medication can improve balance and reduce dizziness. Additionally, proper lighting, appropriate railings, and securely fixed rugs and carpets are more minor factors that are every bit as important. In many cases, these more minor factors are out of an elderly individual’s control, thus making them the responsibility of the public, store owner, etc. to keep areas safe for the elderly.

When Hazards Cause Falls: Poor Maintenance, Inadequate Supervision & Other Negligence

The CDC points out that falls in nursing homes are a particular problem, with twice the rate of falls than for the general elderly population. Common causes of injury to nursing home residents include improper supervision, wet floors, improper bed heights, poor lighting, and poorly adjusted or defective wheelchairs.

If an elderly person or other family member has sustained a fall that caused a serious or catastrophic injury, you should contact a Los Angeles personal injury lawyer specializing in premises liability who can evaluate if another party is potentially responsible to some extent for the fall and resulting injuries. Hazardous conditions that can cause falls may not be readily apparent, and an experienced personal injury attorney knows how to assess whether another party—such as the premises owner, builder, maintenance contractor or architect—may have acted negligently.