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“Older adults”, “senior citizens”, or “the elderly” are all titles that are typically given to adults over the age of 64. It is around this age that many adults begin to retire, but that has changed in recent years as many adults continue to work. This is because advances in medicine have allowed people to live longer, healthier lives.
Still, older adults are one of the most vulnerable populations all over the world. Although injury— both serious and minor— can occur at any age, senior citizens are at a greater risk of injury from doing everyday things, as opposed to other types of injuries. Here are some of the most common places where older adults are most likely to get injured, the type of injury sustained, and how these injuries can be prevented.
Inside the Home
More than half of all elder falls occur inside of the home, and they tend to be more fatal for those over the age of 60. These falls can happen anywhere in the home, and the majority are from ground level, meaning that they’re not from a height. Elder falls can result in:
- Head trauma
- Hip dislocation
- Lower back injuries
Preventing a fall inside of an elder’s home starts with making the home safer for them to live in. This includes bathroom renovations, such as switching to a walk-in tub or shower; updating the flooring from hardwood or tile to low pile carpet or vinyl; and installing a chairlift on the stairs or a home elevator.
Burns are also common in the elderly, especially since their skin is more sensitive. They may forget to turn off burners when cooking and accidentally burn themselves. Some seniors may need assistance with things like cooking and bathing to ensure that they don’t burn themselves. This assistance can be in the form of a home health aide or a family member checking in on them from time to time.
At the Workplace or Other Community Setting
Falls are also pretty common outside of the home, making up 30% of senior falls. As more and more people are continuing to work through retirement age, the workplace is becoming a dangerous place for the elderly. Even office jobs that are seemingly danger-free can pose some hazards to the elderly if the workplace isn’t kept free of safety hazards. Older adults can also experience a fall while shopping at a store or walking through a park
Sprains, particularly ankle sprains, are also fairly common injuries among this age group. As we age, we’re more at risk for twisting our feet, putting us at a greater risk for sprains by doing something as simple as walking. Low-impact physical activity can help keep joints and bones strong to lessen the risk of sprains and also falls.
As far as falls go, 10% of elder falls occur in a healthcare setting such as a hospital, nursing home, or a rehabilitation facility. While these falls can be accidental, some are intentional— and this is a form of elder abuse. Elder abuse can appear in these forms:
- Verbal abuse
- Sexual abuse
- Physical abuse (beatings, broken bones, etc.)
- Neglect (bed sores, medication errors, poor hygiene, etc.)
Elder abuse can happen in any type of care setting, but it’s better known to occur in nursing homes. Those with loved ones in nursing homes should contact an elder abuse lawyer if they notice any of the above physical signs, as well as these emotional signs:
- Changes in personality
- Hesitation/refusal to speak
- Isolation from family, friends, or neighbors
- Withdrawal from the community
Elder abuse can be prevented in healthcare settings by establishing strict patient care policies and procedures. Another way to help prevent elder abuse in healthcare and other settings would be to have frequent check-ins from social workers and volunteers to help ensure a safe environment.
Falls are the most common injury among older adults, as they can happen almost anywhere they go— even inside of their own homes. However, it’s important to be aware of falls and other injuries (such as elder abuse) that can also be very common to people of this age group. Elders are often seen as weak and unable to speak up for themselves, making them one of the most vulnerable age groups. This combined with being one of the age groups most prone to falls means that more attention needs to go towards their health and well-being.