Preventing falls in time for fall

Falling leaves, picking apples and sipping pumpkin spice lattes are sure signs of the seasons changing. The Merck Manuals is adding one more to the list: preventative steps to avoid falls among the elderly.

An essay and an accompanying editorial by contributing author Laurence Z. Rubenstein is now highlighted on the Merk Manuals Professional website because it’s the first day of fall. September 23 has been designated Falls Prevention Awareness Day by the National Council on Aging.

"The problem of falls in older persons is more than simply their high incidence," wrote Rubenstein, MD, MPH, Chairman of the Department of Geriatric Medicine, University of Oklahoma College of Medicine. "Rather, it is a combination of a high incidence of falling together with a high susceptibility to injury, due to a high prevalence of clinical diseases (eg, osteoporosis) and age-related physiological changes (eg, slowed protective reflexes) that make even a relatively mild fall particularly dangerous."

Older adults also recover more slowly from fall-related injuries and can experience post-fall syndrome, in which the fear of falling can affect a person's gait and activity level, he said.

The number of American seniors who die from fall-related injuries has nearly doubled since 2000, according to data released in May by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics.

The Merck Manuals is a series of medical reference books for doctors and patients. Content is always available online, and the website often hightlights specific topics based on national observance days and what's trending, says says editor-in-chief Robert S. Porter, MD.

Topics: Clinical