The Battle to Get Elderly Back on Their Feet After Falls

Falls treated as complicated medical events instead of routine part of getting old
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 8, 2008 8:46 AM CST
Doctors say the lost confidence that often follows a fall can blight the lives of elderly patients.   (Shutter Stock)
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(Newser) – Falling and breaking a hip is so common among the elderly it's been considered an inevitable sign of aging, but medical experts have now developed complex protocols to both prevent and treat breaks that often trigger a spiral of decline, the New York Times reports. Even minor falls "need to be taken as seriously as diabetes," a professor of geriatrics tells John Leland, who follows the cases of two women—a 94-year-old who recovered her mobility, and an 87-year-old who died within months.

Some 20% of hip-fracture patients over 65 die within a year, as the immobility after a fall makes them prone to pneumonia and infections, and exacerbates other underlying conditions, like heart and respiratory disease. And medications for treating the fall may interact poorly with other drugs the patient is taking. “If you take 70-year-olds, on average they’re taking five medications,” says one doctor. “When you get to 10 medications, the likelihood of adverse effects is close to 100%.”