Falls are the main cause of injuries among elderly people
Falls are the main cause of injuries among elderly people, but until now doctors have had few ways of effectively monitoring and counteracting mobility problems among patients. Work by European researchers is set to change that.
Mobility problems, ranging from frequent accidental falls to difficulty standing up or walking, affect millions of Europeans both young and old. Elderly people in particular become more liable to trip due to poor eyesight or poor balance, while health complications, such as strokes and circulatory problems, or debilitating diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s can make performing everyday tasks — even reaching into a cupboard — difficult or even dangerous.
Injuries caused by falls among the elderly range from mild scrapes and bruises to serious complications requiring long-term treatment. Nine out of ten hip fractures, for example, occur in people over 50 — and 80 percent of them women.
“Falls and other mobility problems have a major societal and economic impact,” says Lorenzo Chiari, a researcher at the University of Bologna, Italy. “For the elderly, there is not only the risk of physical injury but also the psychological trauma falling causes and the long-term effects mobility problems have on quality of life. For healthcare systems, the costs of treating injuries caused by falls are only going to escalate as Europe’s population ages.”
In Chiari’s view, new technology offers a solution. Just as advances in sensing devices and wireless communications are allowing doctors to monitor their patients’ vital signs remotely through so-called telecare and telemedicine systems, similar technology can be used to monitor, prevent and detect mobility problems.