Senior Health Threatened by Untreated Falls

Falling down is hazardous to a senior citizen’s health, yet fewer
than half of all seniors see a doctor after a fall. And those who do not seek
medical attention are far less likely to engage in any of the six widely
recommended activities — such as a review of their medications or getting
a cane or walker — that might prevent repeated falls, according to a new
policy brief from the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research.

In the study, researchers, using data from the 2007 California Health
Interview Survey, found that even though 91% of California seniors reported
seeing a doctor in the past year, a fall was rarely the reason for the visit.
In fact, less than half (46.6%) of seniors who had fallen more than once
reported a fall as the reason for a doctor’s appointment.

Those who did not seek medical help were less likely to engage in
activities that might prevent future falls — only about 31% did two or
more follow-up activities to prevent falls. In contrast, 73% of seniors who did
seek medical care after a fall engaged in two or more follow-up activities.

“Following up with a doctor after a fall is critical to senior
health,” UCLA Center for Health Policy Research associate director Steven
P. Wallace, lead author of the policy brief, said in a press release. “The
safeguards we discuss are some of the best ways of preventing additional falls
and the disastrous health consequences associated with falls.”

Falls among the elderly are a widespread problem. More than half a
million older Californians (565,000) fell more than once in 2007 — about
100,000 more than reported multiple falls in 2003, according to the California
Department of Public Health and the Office of Statewide Planning and

Falls are directly linked to declining health among older Americans:
More than 1,400 California seniors died due to injuries from falls in 2007, and
approximately 67,000 more were hospitalized.

The study’s authors recommended a number of ways to encourage seniors
and health care providers alike to prevent multiple falls, including: train
first responders; educate/incentivize health providers; and involve the

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