Falls are a major cause of morbidity and mortality in elderly Americans. One out of three people age 65 years and older fall each year. These falls led to 2.2 million emergency department visits and 581,000 hospitalizations in 2009. Twenty to thirty percent of falls in older adults lead to serious injuries, including hip fractures and traumatic brain injuries. Falls are also the leading cause of injury-related death in adults age 65 years and older in the United States. The end result of these unintentional falls is an annual cost to the United States of over $19 billion.
These are the statistics for community-dwelling elderly Americans. We also know that hospitalization increases a person’s fall risk primarily because of acute illness, residence in an unfamiliar environment, connection to multiple tubes and monitors, and an increased risk of delirium. A serious fall can also create a fear in falling for elderly adults; this fear in falling initiates a progressive slide towards reduced mobility, leading to progressive loss of function and, therefore, an increased risk of falls. For this reason, it is of paramount importance to put systems in place to prevent falls in our older adults.