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Home News Fall-Related Injuries
Kenny Vigil
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Fall-Related Injuries

January 27, 2014 - Older Adult Falls - Safety

The New Mexico Department of Health reports that fall-related injury is the leading cause of unintentional injury death, hospitalization and emergency room visits for New Mexico seniors ages 65 and older.

Seniors accounted for 245 out of 300 fall-related deaths (82%) in New Mexico in 2012.

“Many older adults who fall, even those who are not injured, develop a fear of falling again,” said Department of Health Cabinet Secretary Retta Ward, MPH. “This fear tends to cause them to limit their activities, leading to reduced mobility and a decline in physical fitness, which then increases their risk of falling again.”

According to the 2012 New Mexico Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System Information, 32% of older adults 65+ years of age have fallen at least once in the previous 12 months, and 13% were injured in at least one fall in that same time period.

The fall-related death rate among seniors in 2012 was 83.6/100,000 population. That’s a decrease from for a rate of 88.0/100,000 population in 2011.

The Department also reports that in 2012:

  • Hip fractures accounted for 25% of fall-related deaths among seniors.
  • Traumatic brain injury accounted for 21% of fall-related deaths. Falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries in the United States.

“Fall-related injury seriously affects quality of life and can increase the risk of early death,” said Secretary Ward.

The mission of the Healthy Aging Collaborative is to foster partnerships that promote healthy aging for all New Mexicans. The Collaborative is partnering with the New Mexico Adult Falls Coalition to sponsor the state’s first Adult Falls Prevention Symposium in the fall of 2014.

The Department recommends older adults do the following to reduce their chances of falling:

  • Exercise regularly. It is important that the exercises focus on increasing leg strength and improving balance, and that they get more challenging over time. Tai Chi programs are especially good.
  • Ask their doctor or pharmacist to review their medicines—both prescription and over-the counter-to identify medicines that may cause side effects or interactions such as dizziness or drowsiness.
  • Have their eyes checked by an eye doctor at least once a year and update their eyeglasses to maximize their vision. Consider getting a pair with single vision distance lenses for some activities such as walking outside.
  • Make their homes safer by reducing tripping hazards, adding grab bars inside and outside the tub or shower and next to the toilet, adding railings on both sides of stairways, and improving the lighting in their homes.

To lower their hip fracture risk, older adults can also:

  • Get adequate calcium and vitamin D—from food and/or from supplements.
  • Do weight bearing exercise.
  • Get screened and, if needed, treated for osteoporosis

The 2013 New Mexico Legislature passed House Joint Memorial 32, which called on the Department of Health to convene a Task Force to evaluate New Mexico’s approach to older adult fall prevention and recommend effective change. Major recommendations included funding to increase the public’s awareness of the dangers of falls in the elderly and how to prevent them, and to assist health care providers to screen for fall risks consistently and comprehensively.

The complete report and recommendations can be found online at the New Mexico Legislature website.

Media Contact

We would be happy to provide additional information about this press release. Simply contact Kenny Vigil at 505-841-5871 (Office) or 505-470-2290 (Mobile) with your questions.