Unintentional Accidents

elder fall risk

A trending look at Elder Falls

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

  • One-third of Americans aged 65+ fall each year.
  • Falls are the leading cause of fatal injury and the most common cause of nonfatal trauma-related hospital admissions among older adults
  • In 2013, the total cost of fall injuries was $34 billion.
  • The financial toll for older adult falls is expected to increase as the population ages and may reach $67.7 billion by 2020.

The leading cause of unintentional accidents in seniors are falls. Evidence based falls assessments, educating, addressing and reducing fall risk factors to name has shown positive impact in reducing elder fall risk. When reviewing intrinsic risk factors such as medication management, strengthening / balance exercises, pain management and vision care etc, in addition to extrinsic factors such as adequate lighting, cleaning up spills, removing clutter and trip hazards etc. has shown to reduce risk of elder falls.  

Another example of unintentional accidents are motor vehicle accidents. Involvement in fatal crashes, per mile traveled, begins increasing among drivers ages 70‒74 and are highest among drivers ages 85 and older (CDC). In order to reduce risk of auto accident involvement is to also identify risk factors such as impairments of driver, driver experience ,adequate vision and visual field, reaction time  can be examples of intrinsic factors in addition risk factors such as functional wiper blades , road conditions, proper tires and functioning headlights etc. are few examples of extrinsic factors.

Both the Auto and HealthCare industries have one common denominator it is the reduction of risk of injury and death. 

Unintentional elder fall accidents and unintentional auto accident statistics.

Below are CDC and NHTSA’s National Center for Statistics and Analysis

Unintentional Motor Vehicle Traffic Deaths and Traffic Crashes

Year                       Auto Fatalities Reported   Auto accidents               

2004                      42,636                                  6,181,000

2005                      43,443                                  6,159,000  

2006                      42,642                                  5,973,000

2007                      41,059                                  6,024,000

2008                      37,261                                  5,811,000

2009                      33,808                                  5,505,000

2010                      32,885                                  5,419,000

2011                      32.367                                  5,338,000 

2012                      33,782                                  5,615,000 

2013                      32,719                                  5,687,000

Number of US citizens by year and US licensed drivers and accidental auto death

In 2004 there were an estimated 293 million US citizens with an estimated 199 million licensed drivers with 43,432 auto accidental deaths. In 2013 there were an estimated 316.5 million US citizens and  estimated 214 million licensed drivers with 33,804 auto accidental deaths. 

Statistics above show the number of unintentional auto accidental deaths over past 9 years identified shows a progressive decrease while total number of the population in the US and number of licensed drivers increased.

Below are CDC Unintentional Fall death and Nonfatal Injuries age 65+

( Rates per 100,000 )

Year           unintentional fall death rates        number of reported fall injuries

2004            14,900                                                    1,850,649                                                                          

2005            15,800                                                    1,800,763

2006            16,650                                                    1,840,117

2007            18,334                                                    1,927,766

2008            19,742                                                    2,114,113

2009            20,422                                                    2,202,024

2010            21,645                                                    2,350,009

2011            22,901                                                    2,403,146

2012            24,190                                                    2,422,463

2013            25,464                                                    2,495,397

Number of US citizens by year and Seniors aged 65+ and accidental falls deaths

In 2004 there were an estimated 293 million US citizens with an estimated 18.5 million 65 years and older with 14,900 elder fall deaths. In 2013 there were an estimated 319 million US citizen in which 44.7 million were 65 years and older with 25,464 elder fall deaths.

Statistics above show the number of unintentional senior falls deaths past 9 years identified shows a progressive increase while total US population and number of seniors over 65 increased

Probable reasons why auto deaths has shown to decline steadily are not only has intrinsic and extrinsic risk factors been identified but also the Auto Industry recognizes accidents cannot always be preventable. The auto industry has incorporated technology focused on injury prevention such as the development of the (ABS) Automatic Brake System, air bags and air curtains, auto body crumple zone to absorb the forces upon impact, smart self-braking systems, new advancements in tire composites, automatic seat belts, in addition stricter laws associated with driving are only a few examples of the advancements made to address unintentional auto accidents.

According to the American College of Surgeons Committee on Trauma Injury Prevention Presented by the Subcommittee on Injury Prevention and Control-, “The human element (or host factors) cannot be ignored when considering prevention interventions. Prevention strategies can be active or passive. There is a hierarchy of effect among the various prevention strategies that is generally inversely proportional to the amount of active involvement required: Technology-related strategies are among the most effective, with legislative strategies somewhat less effective, and educational strategies least effective and taking the longest time to show effect. Air bags, for example, provide the greatest likelihood of protection because they require the minimal amount of effort. Air bags deploy automatically in a crash whether you want them to or not. Manual seat belts, on the other hand, require a maximal amount of effort on the part of the host to utilize them. Therefore, they provide the least likelihood of protection, despite the uncontested proof that seat belts save lives. An intermediate likelihood of protection is associated with automatic seat belts, which correspondingly require an intermediate amount of effort on the part of the vehicle occupant. Active strategies, on the other hand, involve more participation on the part of the individual at risk in order to achieve the desired effect. Helmet safety programs, for example, require an educational component that must be continually reinforced to be effective”- 

Identification and addressing specific intrinsic and extrinsic factors has shown to reduce risk of auto accidents also identification and addressing specific intrinsic and extrinsic factors has shown to reduce risk of elder falls. One can predicate the fact it is difficult to prevent unintentional accidents either being elder falls or auto accidents . One can also conclude advancements in injury protective devices by the auto industry especially when passively implemented  has proved positive in reducing injuries and deaths in auto accidents. It may be then probable to theorize the significance of technological advancements in elder injury protection devices that it may positively impact the rising death rate of seniors caused by unintentional fall

References:

  • NHTSA’s National Center for Statistics and Analysis
  •  CDC facts elder falls
  • “Injury Prevention”(slide 14-Host Factors) American College of Surgeons Committee on Trauma Injury Prevention Presented by the Subcommittee on Injury Prevention and Control 
  • US census bureau

 

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