HOLD STEADY. Let's Prevent Falls Among Seniors: Ontario's Doctors

TORONTO, March 15, 2012 /Canada NewsWire/ - Every 10 minutes in Ontario, at least one person over the age of 65 visits an emergency room because of a fall and the impacts can be devastating. That's why Ontario's doctors are launching an information campaign for patients to raise awareness about the risks of falling and how to take steps to prevent falls in the first place.

"We are facing a growing population of people over the age of 65 and no matter how sure-footed they feel, if seniors take a few simple precautions, they could significantly reduce their risk of taking a serious fall." Stewart Kennedy, MD President, Ontario Medical Association

Unintentional falls are the leading cause of injury among those over 65, making up 59% of emergency department visits and 79% of all hospitalisations for this age group in Ontario. Surprisingly, the most common type of fall among Ontarians over 65 is caused by slipping or tripping on level ground and not falling on stairs or off of furniture.

A fall can carry serious consequences including damage to muscles, broken bones, and damage to a person's confidence about living independently. Recognizing that the number of people over the age of 65 is expected to double over the next 20 years, Ontario's doctors want to ensure that patients have the information they need to potentially avoid a dangerous fall.

"We want our patients to live healthy and independent lives. Falling can take a person from fully able and independent, to disabled and relying on others in just a split second." said Dr. Kennedy

Since most falls are preventable, there are a few easy steps to take to lessen the chances of falling. These include:

...Eliminating tripping hazards inside the home;

...Wearing appropriate footwear, especially on slippery or uneven surfaces;

...Talking to your family doctor about the side effects of all medications that could increase your chances of falling, especially if you take more than one; and

...Staying physically active to keep muscles strong.

Brochures are available in doctors' offices and more information can be found at:

Quick Facts:

...Fall-related emergency department visits most frequently involve hip fractures, open wounds to the head or face, and wrist or forearm fractures.

...Among hospitalisations, 38% of patients are discharged home, 26% are transferred to another facility (such as a rehabilitation centre), and 26% are transferred to a long-term care facility. For approximately 7% of seniors, a fall will be fatal.

...Almost 1/4 of all the fall-related emergency department visits and over 3/5 of fall-related hospitalisations occurred among the over-65 group;

...In Ontario, data from 2004 reveals that falls on level ground cost a total of $610 million to the health care system. Falls from furniture and on stairs accounted for another $137 million and $241 million respectively.