Staff Reporter

Potentially debilitating falls among the elderly are common Complications could range from fracture to serious head or internal injuries or laceration

  • Common complications are fracture, serious internal injuries, and laceration
  • One in three aged above 65, fall one or more times in a 12-month period

    CHENNAI: Potentially debilitating falls among the elderly are more common in those over 70 years and seem to occur more frequently among women than men, according to a study conducted by Senior Citizens' Bureau.

    The study, conducted among patients who turned up for a comprehensive health check-up conducted by the Bureau, found that falls were more common among persons aged above 70 years while more than 50 per cent of the patients were women.

    Common complications of falls could range from fracture to serious head or internal injuries or laceration.

    The screening at Kumaran Hospitals included blood pressure, blood sugar, bone-mineral density, ENT and ophthalmic evaluation. Of the 94 patients who attended, 85 were taken for the study.

    "Diabetic neuropathy is one of the predisposing factors for loss of balance leading to a fall," said V. S. Natarajan, chairman of the Bureau, who led the study. Therefore, strict control of diabetes can minimise falls in this category, he said.

    Significantly, more than half the patients had more than four co-morbidities, or coexisting disorders and were on polypharmacy (more than five drugs simultaneously). The study found that falls were directly related to the number of co-morbid disorders. In fact, the use of multiple drugs that can upset the balance system is one of the intrinsic risk factors for falls. Other factors include dementia, Parkinson's disease, stroke, cervical spondylosis, acute infections, arthritis and foot deformity.

    It is estimated that approximately one in three people aged greater than 65 years, fall one or more times in a 12-month period, the frequency often increasing with age to one in two for those aged greater than 90 years.

    According to the study, while 70 per cent of the patients reported fear of falls, at least 30 per cent had a history of falls.

    A history of recurrent falls (more than two episodes in a six-month duration) was reported by 14 per cent of the patients.

    The common disorders included diabetes (52 per cent), peripheral neuropathy (38 per cent), osteoporosis (52 per cent), systemic hypertension (33 per cent) osteoarthritis (71 per cent) and impaired lower limb balance (45 per cent).

    Among other measures recommended to the patients to prevent falls were correction of vision (40 per cent reported poor vision), regular intake of calcium, restricting the number of medicines by keeping co-morbid illnesses under control and regular exercise.