State Health Commissioner Urges New Yorkers to Prevent Falls in Older Adults

ALBANY, N.Y. (Dec. 3, 2009) – State Health Commissioner Richard F. Daines, M.D., today urged New Yorkers to remember that one of the best ways for New York seniors to remain independent is to prevent falls and fall-related injuries.

"As people age, one of their biggest concerns is losing the ability to live independently," said Commissioner Daines. "Fall-related injuries in older adults often lead to hospitalizations, beginning the downward spiral that can result in long-term disability or death. It's important that older adults and their families learn the simple steps to reduce the risk for fall-related injuries."

Falls are the leading cause of injury deaths and hospital visits for New Yorkers 65 and older. Each year, 900 New Yorkers aged 65 years and older will die due to a fall, and more than 125,000 will be injured severely enough to require hospital treatment. On average, each day in New York State, two seniors die and 350 are treated at hospitals for fall-related injuries. These injuries account for nearly $5 billion in hospital charges annually.

Common injuries as a result of a fall include traumatic brain injuries (TBI) and hip fractures. Nearly half of all fall-related deaths in older adults have an associated TBI and more than one-third sustain a hip fracture.

"Fall-related injuries in older adults are a major public health problem," said Susan Hardman, Director of the New York State Health Department's Bureau of Injury Prevention. "As baby boomers age, we likely will see a significant increase in these injuries. Fortunately, there are simple strategies for reducing the risk of falling."

To reduce your risk:

  • Follow a physical activity program to improve strength and balance.
  • Have your health care provider review medications for potential side effects such as dizziness and drowsiness.
  • Have your eye doctor check to make sure your prescription for glasses is correct and to check for vision impairment conditions such as glaucoma or cataracts.
  • Assess your home for safety, and make the necessary modifications. Common home hazards include:
    • Clutter in walkways and on stairs causing tripping
    • Slippery or inconsistent flooring surfaces causing falls
    • Poor or inadequate lighting
    • Pets and pet-related objects on the floor
    • Lack of stair railings or grab bars
    • Lack of easy access to bathrooms and scatter rugs without no-skid backing.

More information about fall prevention in older adults is available on the DOH Web site at www.nyhealth.gov/prevention/injury_prevention