Fighting Deadly Falls in Wisconsin’s Elderly
People 65 and older are dying as a result of falls at an increasing rate across the country. Nationally, the rate of death after a fall increased more than 35 percent between 2005 and 2014. Falls are now the leading cause of death in people 65 and older.
In Wisconsin, the issue is so severe, public health experts are considering it an epidemic. The elderly death rate from falls in that state is the second highest in the nation and more than double the national average.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the average elderly death rate from falls is about 48 per 100,000. Wisconsin’s rate, however, is approximately 105 in 100,000, which is second only to Vermont.
Although it is not clear exactly why Wisconsin’s rate is so much higher than the rest of the country, a number of groups are working to find answers and solutions.
Specialists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have partnered with others in Oregon, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Epic Systems, a provider of healthcare records software, to develop a program to predict, and ultimately reduce, elderly patients’ risks for falls.
The group created a screening program called Stopping Elderly Accidents, Deaths & Injuries (STEADI), which encourages conversations between doctors and patients about falls. By analyzing a patient’s risk factors, it identifies a patient’s likelihood of falling.
The leading risk factors that lead to falls include:
- Medications with warnings against driving or operating machinery
- Taking four or more medications
- Low levels of Vitamin D
- Poor vision, including from incorrect glasses prescriptions or cataracts
- Leg weakness, especially in the ankles or feet
- Balance trouble
- Loose objects throughout a home that present tripping dangers
- Previous falls
Jane Mahoney, the creator of the Stepping On program says that small changes can make a big difference in preventing falls. The program teaches participants balancing and strength exercises, along with other strategies to help prevent falls.
She says that making it easy for physicians to screen for fall risks is imperative to slowing down the epidemic. According to the CDC, evaluating and modifying elderly patients’ medication can reduce fall risks by 40 percent.
If your elderly loved one has died from a fall that you believe was a result of another’s negligence, our wrongful death lawyers can help you fight for compensation. Contact PKSD today to learn more about your legal options.