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Study: Most elderly fall due to simple loss of balance

Researchers have long known that falls are one of the most frequent causes of injury and death amongst elderly people in North Carolina and throughout the entire U.S. Still, academic experts have been puzzled by the exact cause for the falls.

New information from a study released earlier this year could help the elderly and their caregivers to better prevent dangerous and fatal fall injuries. Healthcare professionals, especially nursing home workers, should also take note of the study in order to learn about more ways to prevent nursing home negligence, which can also contribute to fatal injuries from falls.

The study was conducted by a group of researchers who used cameras at a long-term care facility to record falls when the accidents happened. The results: Most patients simply lost their balance when they fell instead of slipping or tripping over an object. Although the vast majority of those who fell should have been using walking support, only about 20 percent were using assistance or had someone available to assist them at the time of their accidents.

Many elderly folks may fail to use their assistive devices, but researchers say that walkers are not the only solution to the fall problem. Other factors that contribute to the high fall rate may include muscle weakness, poor vision and different types of medicine that alter cognitive function.

Experts say that the installation of rubber mats in nursing homes can reduce injuries in the event of a fall. Nursing homes should also consider decreasing the number of trip hazards in walkways and doorways in order to prevent falls. Most importantly, nursing home workers must make sure that they continue to monitor their residents and identify those who may be vulnerable to falling when walking on their own. These patients may need more assistance when walking or moving around.

Source: NPR, "Loss of balance is leading cause of elderly falls," Jessica Stoller-Conrad, Oct. 17, 2012

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Study: Most elderly fall due to simple loss of balance | Britton Law, P.A.