By Linda Belardi
The number of older people hospitalised due to a fall is increasing substantially each year, with falls now the cause of one in every ten days spent in hospital by people over 65, according to a new report released today.
The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) reported a jump of more than 5,000 cases in a single year, bringing the total number of hospitalisations due to falls for this age group to 84 000 in 2009-2010.
Professor James Harrison from the AIHW said this figure represented a substantial year-on-year increase and placed a heavy burden on state and territory hospital services.
“The absolute number of cases is big and it is rising and we can expect similar increases in future years due to an ageing population,” he said.
In the report, Hospitalisations due to falls by older people, older women accounted for 69 cent of cases due to their increased life expectancy.
The most common cause of injury for older people was slipping, tripping or stumbling on level ground, rather than down steps or off furniture. About 70 per cent of hospitalised falls occurred in a home or an aged care facility but the incidence of injuries among aged care residents was nearly six times as high as the rate in the community due to their increased frailty.
According to the latest figures, one-third of cases resulted in injuries to the hip and thigh, and a fifth of cases to the head. Head injuries were also more common in men than for women. While there was a reported decline in the average length of stay in hospital in 2009-2010, Prof Harrison said it was still long compared to many other conditions.
“Most injury cases that are admitted to hospital and most cases in general require a couple of days but here we are talking about a couple of weeks.”
The average length of stay in hospital following a fall was about 15.5 days in 2009-2010 and falls now make up around one in 20 episodes in hospital for all causes in people over 65, he said.
Prof Harrison said increased overall fitness in younger generations and improved nutrition may see a decline in falls in the long-term but an ageing population will continue to drive up falls rates over the next few decades. Exercise programs that focus on balance and building muscle strength such as tai chi may also help to reduce the risk of falls in older people, he said.
Read the full report here: Hospitalisations due to falls by older people