Falls are Serious and Traumatic

On Monday, September 23, marking the first day of fall, hospitals and organizations across the nation join together to spread awareness on Fall Prevention. According to the Centers for Disease Control, one out of five falls causes a serious injury. Injuries can range from a small bruise to a catastrophic injury or even death. The CDC expects deaths from falls to increase to seven every hour by the year 2030.

Falls are the main causes for traumatic brain injuries, or TBI. A TBI is a disruption of normal brain function as a result of a bump or jolt to the head. Severity can be mild to possible permanent disability. The mild ones, we refer to as concussions and most people recover well from symptoms that come from concussions. A person with a severe brain injury will need to be hospitalized and may have long-term problems affecting things such as thinking, memory, learning, coordination and balance, speech, hearing, vision and emotions.

Danger signs of TBI and should seek immediate medical attention
• Drowsiness
• Pupils are different sizes
• Seizure
• Confusion or restless
• Loss of consciousness
• Headache that gets worse

Another serious injury caused from falls are fractures.

A common one is hip fractures. Hip fractures can be difficult to recover from and often require surgery, reduce mobility and limit independence. Each year over 300,000 people over the age of 65 are hospitalized with hip fractures. Most hip fractures occur when falling sideways from a standing height.

Risk factors that can put you at greater risk for a hip fracture are:
• Being over the age of 65
• Being a woman
• Having osteoporosis
• Having low body weight or poor nutrition
• Lack of exercise

To prevent falls and the risk of serious injuries talk to your doctor about these specific things:
• Reviewing of your medications that might make you sleepy or dizzy
• Having your eyes checked yearly
• Strength and balance exercises

You can help yourself by maintaining a safe home by removing clutter and fall hazards, such as cords. Install grab bars in the bathroom near the shower and toilet, and be sure to have good lighting where you walk.

In the upcoming months, Penn Highlands Healthcare trauma team will be out in the community to provide our patients with education on fall prevention, reducing injury risk and hospitalizations related to falls. If you are interested in more information or an educational presentation for your group please reach out to Katie Shields, RN, MSN, at 814-375-6575.