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Falls causing twice as many deaths in seniors than car accidents

According to the Canadian Kinesiology Alliance, 13 seniors die, and 259 are hospitalized on average each day in Canada.

In 2018, this resulted in 4,849 deaths, 94,529 hospitalizations, 424,609 emergency department visits, and 28,310 disabilities.

The Canadian Kinesiology Alliance reports the number of fall-related hospitalizations of older adults increased 47% over the last ten years.

Kinesiologist Minda Chittenden said when these falls turn fatal, it can be because a number of factors, such as hitting the head, falling when alone with no one to assist, or complications with surgery.

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“Falls have been kind of a silent killer for a really long time,” Chittenden said.

“People hear fall, they think broken hip, or they think injury. They assume it can get repaired, but the reality is it can’t always because there’s usually complications.”

“The surgeries are risky, and then there’s immobility issues after, so you’re not able to move as well, which can already aggravate existing chronic conditions.”

Chittenden added that most of the time, falls occur in the home, and happen because of:

  • Slippery floors,
  • Moving too quickly,
  • Transferring (getting in and out of a chair, bed or bath)

“We’ve done some really good research through Simon Fraser in the Fraser Health region, and they installed cameras in a whole bunch of long-term care facilities, to find out how these are happening,” Chittenden explained.

“There’s no time for people to react. They’ve even did some testing on the Canadian Karate Group just to see if you have the best ‘fallers’ in the world, and you suddenly move something underneath them, could they fall and protect themselves, or would they still fall and land on their hips.”

“You can’t teach people how to fall properly and get this problem to go away, you have to strengthen people to protect people.”

Chittenden added that prevention is the best method when it comes to falls, things like:

  • Get an assessment of the home to determine fall hazards,
  • Wearing good shoes in the home for grip,
  • Have railings on both sides of the stairs,
  • Making sure you have appropriate glasses and hearing aids,
  • Reviewing medications regularly

“The number one way to protect yourself from most chronic health conditions, but especially falling is exercise,” Chittenden explained.

“One of the things that people stop doing is they stop walking sideways and they stop walking backwards, and those are the two fundamental positions that you need to work on to maintain your balance.”

“If you’re startled, you’re often startled from in front, so you still need to maintain those instincts.”

In BC, three older adults die from a fall each day, and around 1,000 each year both directly and indirectly.

According to BC’s Guiding Framework for Public Health, which was released in March 2017, the 2009/10 baseline for fall-related hospitalizations for British Columbians was 28.2 per 1,000 people.

The BC Government’s target number for 2023 is to get that down to 25.

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