Causes of Death: Trauma-Falls

Falls are the leading cause of injury related emergency room visits for the 65 and older population in all of the U.S. People experiencing falls in their later life show an increasing decline in functional abilities and are at greater risk for institutionalization (Lindeman, 2003).

Within Alaska, during the time period of 1996 – 2000 there were 694 falls reported in Alaska Native people 55 and older. Falls occurred in all areas of the state, with the majority in the Southeast, and Western regions and within the city of Anchorage. Most of the falls, 62%, occurred in the home. In about one-fifth of the cases, alcohol consumption was determined to be a factor. These falls resulted in 4,829 days of hospitalization, with an average of seven days per incident and a range of 0 to 113 days.

Because of the high cost of falls in both public health dollars and personal loss of independence and mobility, many studies published in public health and medical journals deal with fall prevention strategies.  However, there is little information about fall prevention specifically for or about Alaska Native or American Indian elders.