Falls and the Elderly: Clumsiness or Negligence – It depends

Falls and the Elderly: Clumsiness or Negligence – It depends

When 78 year old Patrick falls at the grocery store and fractures his hip – is that anybody’s fault? Like many legal questions, the answer is: It depends. At first glance, many people assume that Patrick simply fell because he wasn’t careful. Sometimes that is true. When that’s the case, it’s not a legal matter, it’s just life. But other times there is more to the story.

When a business, like a grocery store, opens its doors – they invite all customers. It’s not exactly surprising that many of the customers are seniors. In fact, most companies encourage business from seniors. But when that business allows ice to pile up across the walkway leading to the entrance, it poses a special risk to the elderly. When a landlord fails to repair broken and cracked flooring, it puts seniors who may be walking with a cane at risk.

It is important for all businesses to understand the significance of falls to their elderly customers. When a 25 year old falls, it is usually not a big deal. They dust off and go on with their business. When the elderly fall, that is often not the case. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, falls are the leading cause of injury deaths among older adults. They are also the most common cause of hospital admissions for trauma. About 25 percent of those who fall will suffer moderate to severe injuries such as bruises, hip fractures or head traumas. These injuries may be dangerous on their own. As importantly, however, they can limit mobility.

A hip fracture, for example, may heal promptly in a younger person. For a senior, however, the same injury may confine them to a wheelchair for years. Hip fractures are the most common type of fall-related fracture. The loss of mobility associated with a hip fracture can have serious consequences. Up to one in four adults who lived independently before their hip fracture, has to stay in a nursing home for at least a year after their injury. About one out of five hip fracture patients dies within a year of their injury.

Falls, however, are not an inevitable consequence of aging. Some businesses treat falls as an unexpected event. Without adequate precautions, however, falls are not surprising. It is important for businesses that profit from sales to elderly customers, also take precautions to protect them. Simple things like clearing the snow outside a grocery store can make a dramatic difference to senior customers.

For seven tips on how you can avoid falls, check out the full article on our website. Or call, and we’ll send you a copy. The majority of the statistics for this article were obtained from a series of articles produced by the Centers for Disease Control. If you are interested in learning more, you can find the articles at www.cdc.gov/ncipc/duip/preventadultfalls.

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