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CDC Says Falls, Particularly Among Elderly, the Reason Behind Record Number of Brain Injuries

In a CDC report released in mid-March, the government organization revealed that the number of reported brain injuries has increased dramatically since 2007. Brain injuries have been frequently studied and reported on in the news and medical community, with brain injuries in professional athletes and youths taking center stage. In 2015, Will Smith starred as pathologist Dr. Bennett Omalu, who, after examining a deceased NFL player, discovers he had suffered from severe neurological trauma and disease. Dr. Omalu became the face and voice against football-related brain injuries after realizing many other former professional players suffered from the same symptoms. Also in 2015, the mother of a former youth athlete sued her son’s football program after he commit suicide and was found to have serious brain injuries resulting from repeated concussions.  Nevertheless, despite headlines about professional athletes and youth football players, the driving force behind this spike in brain injuries is surprisingly a result of the increasing occurrence of elderly falls.

Latest Statistics about Brain Injuries
The CDC found that suicide, suicide attempts, and falls were all contributors to the increase in traumatic brain injuries. The number of brain injuries as a result of car accidents has actually decreased in recent years.

The CDC says that on average, 27,000 Americans a year die from injuries sustained from a fall. Those aged 75+ fell the most and fall-related deaths were the leading cause of death from an injury among the 65+ age group. The CDC also reports that emergency room visits, hospital stays and deaths from fall-related brain injuries happen to 1 in every 45 Americans aged 75+. In fact, this number has increased 76% since 10 years ago. In the last 10 years, the rate of hospital visits and deaths resulting from fall-related brain injuries in all ages increased 39%, proving that falls are a serious health concern for everyone.

Elderly Are at Risk, No Matter Where They Live
The problem with falls at home is that elderly Americans might be afraid of telling a loved one out of fear that they will have to be removed from their home. In nursing homes, falls are an unfortunately frequent occurrence, despite the expectation that our loved ones are being monitored to prevent such accidents. According to researchers at Ohio State University, those elderly Americans that do report falls have a tendency to be evaluated less thoroughly by medical experts than a younger patient. This belief has been proven by statistics that show 1/3 of all elderly patients who are evaluated post-fall report back to a physician or emergency room within 90 days.

Steps can be taken to help prevent elderly falls. Removing tripping hazards such as loose rugs and floor clutter (cords, garbage cans, small pieces of furniture), keeping living areas well-lit, enlisting the assistance of a physical therapist to help improve balance, flexibility and coordination, purchasing a device such as a cane or walker to help with walking, and installing shower and toilet aids such as a bar or rail are all preventative measures. These strategies can be used both at home or in a nursing home. Despite the relative common sense of these tips, 1 in 3 elderly Americans will fall every year. For those who have loved ones that are still living in their own homes, small steps such as those listed above can help prevent slips and falls. For those in nursing homes, it is imperative that you feel confident in the level of care provided at the facility you’ve entrusted to help look after your loved ones.

If a loved one has suffered a brain injury resulting from a fall while under the supervision of a home health agency, nursing home, rehab center, or hospital, the nursing home abuse lawyers at Levin & Perconti are here to help you decide if you have reason for legal action. Our legal consultations are free and confidential and can be requested online or by calling us at 312-332-2872 or toll-free at 877-374-1417.

Please note: This post can also be found on our Illinois Brain Injury Blog.