The rate of injuries caused by falls among older Australians has increased over the last decade, with more than 100,000 older Australians hospitalised because of a fall last year, the latest government statistics show.
“Three-quarters of all injury hospitalisations for people aged 65 and over are a result of a fall,” the AIHW Trends in hospitalised injury due to falls in older people report, released on Thursday says.
Most fall-related injuries in people aged over 65 occurred in women (65 per cent), but rates for men are increasing at a greater rate than for women.
Fall rates for men increased by 3 per cent a year while they went up 2 per cent a year for women.
More head injuries from falls
The report also notes trends in the sorts of injuries suffered, with more falls resulting in head injuries, while the rate of fall-related hip fractures has decreased.
The report says more than 125,021 people aged 65 and over were hospitalised after a fall in 2016-17. Twenty-two per cent of injuries involved the hip and thigh and 26 per cent were head injuries.
Head injury rates more than doubled for both men and women since 2007, while there’s been a one per cent-a-year decrease in hip fractures.
The rate of fall-related injury for people in residential care was six times higher than that of people who fell in their home, with the rate of injury in the community 1,888 per 100,000, compared to 11,403 per 100,000 in residential care.
The average stay in hospital after a fall was around ten days, and falls cost the health systems more than $1 billion year, the report says.
Falls expert Lindy Clemson, professor of ageing and occupational therapy at Sydney University, said the increase in the injury rate is concerning but note the increased incidence of head injuries reflected trends that were occuring overseas.
“This trend for increasing traumatic brain injury from falls in older people- and mortality – is being seen in other countries, like Canada,” she told Community Care Review. “The outcome and recovery following head injury is often much poorer. Increasing age and comorbidities have also been linked to these.
“Prevention strategies include safe ladder and climbing which would be relevant for one group of people, but lighting on stairs and safe climbing and reaching at home is also advised.
There was also a need to accelerate and scale up fall prevention programs and make them more widely available, Professor Clemson said.
“While we have quality and effective fall prevention programs we need to transform these into web-based and other self-help programs.”
Hip fracture report
The AIHW figures come as the national hip fracture report showed that while there’s been an improvement in pain management and rehabilitation for hip fracture patients, some hospitals are failing to operate within the “magic figure” of 48 hours of an injury occurring.
“The data shows that some hospitals must do more to ensure there is enough operating theatre time for surgeons to treat patients within an adequate time frame,” said Australian and New Zealand Hip Fracture Registry co-chair Professor Ian Harris.
Co-Chair Jacqueline close also said the report shows hip fracture patients are not getting “simple and consistent” guidance after leaving hospital.
More than 20,000 Austrlians break their hip each year.