CDC: Fall-related deaths spike; more intervention needed

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More seniors are dying after falls, leading the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to ask doctors and other caregivers to broach the topic more often.

The agency reported in Friday's Morbidity and Mortality Report that 30,00 Americans 65 and older died due to falling in 2016, up from roughly 18,000 in 2007 — a 31% growth rate.

The increase was seen among both men and women, across most racial groups and was “substantial” in 30 states and Washington D.C. Not a single state experienced a decline in fall-related deaths during the period of the study, which was based on death certificate information.

The problem is expected to worsen as the nation's senior population explodes. If the rate of increase remains steady through 2030, some 59,000 American seniors would die due to falls.

“As the U.S. population aged ≥65 years increases, healthcare providers can address the rising number of deaths from falls in this age group by asking about fall occurrences, assessing gait and balance, reviewing medications, and prescribing interventions such as strength and balance exercises or physical therapy,” researchers wrote.

The CDC said screening and interventions for issues with gait, strength and balance are critical. Those that target multiple risk factors, including the CDC's own STEADI program,  can reduce the rate of falls and assist healthcare providers in educating patients.

In nursing homes, much attention has been paid to fall tracking technology and other devices, while some have had success with fall-prevention protocols that address urinary urges.

Also important for caregivers to note: Older Americans are at greatest risk of a fall that leads to death. In 2016, there were 15.6 fatal falls for every 100,000 Americans between the ages of 65 and 74. For those 85 and older, that number climbed to 247.9 fatal falls per 100,000.