Courtesy Stephen Robinovitch / Simon Fraser University
When an elderly person falls, the results can be disastrous: falls rank as the number one cause of injury-related deaths among people over the age of 65. Each year, about 27,000 older people fall and break a hip in Canada; in the US, the number of hip fractures climbs to 300,000.
Preventing broken hips and the falls that cause them is a priority for physicians, physical therapists and nursing home staff. Still, efforts to curb these injuries have not been very effective in the past, according to mobility expert Stephen Robinovitch, and he thinks he now knows why. His team at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, Canada, has studied digital video footage in residential care homes. Their discovery? Falls don't usually occur because of slips and trips, as most elderly people themselves believe, but rather most often as the result of an improper shifting of their body weight, even while standing still.
Robinovitch says many of the falls captured by closed-circuit cameras -- with the residents' permission -- occurred while transitioning from a sitting position to a walker, or from a walker, to a chair. He believes his study will help prevent serious injury in the future, perhaps through improved walker design, or even padded flooring in nursing homes.
His research was published this month in the online version of The Lancet.
- Read my full article: Why Do Older People Fall?
Stephen N Robinovitch, Fabio Feldman, Yijian Yang, Rebecca Schonnop, Pet Ming Lueng, Thiago Sarraf, Joanie Sims-Gould, and Marie Loughin. "Video capture of the circumstances of falls in elderly people residing in long-term care: an observational study." The Lancet, Early Online Publication, 17 October 2012. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(12)61263