Falling like flies

January 24, 2020

Did you know that falls are responsible for over half of accidental deaths in adults over the age of 65? Although for teenagers and young adults a simple fall will likely only lead to minor cuts and scrapes, for an elderly person it can easily lead to a hip fracture, which is fatal for nearly a quarter of elderly people. Understanding how to deal with falls, especially for those who are elderly, is absolutely crucial and can save precious minutes that are essential for survival.

So, now that we know falls can be deadly, what are the things that we can do to provide the best odds of recovery? The very first thing that you should do is ensure your own safety. If someone fell down a small pit, then it is probably not the wisest idea to go after them. 

The next thing you should do is to reasonably determine if the person needs help or not. If your buddy Tom got a small scrape from tripping on some branches and you called an ambulance for him, you’ll definitely get more than a few odd looks from both Tom and the first responders. 

Speaking of first responders, another thing that you could do to provide the best odds of recovery is to get all of the information that you can for them. Some useful information includes how the fall occurred, if there could be a medical cause behind the fall and where on the body he or she landed. Examples of medical reasons that could lead to falls are low blood pressure, low blood sugar (especially in diabetic patients), general dizziness or a loss of consciousness.

If you have reasonably determined that the person needs help and that you are safe, then there are many other serious complications that can accompany falls. First, determine if the person is conscious and if he or she is breathing. If the person is unconscious, not breathing and does not have a pulse, begin CPR and seek medical attention. 

If you are unsure how to perform effective CPR, then refrain from performing CPR as it can lead to other injuries such as a cracked sternum. Alternatively, if you call an emergency number, they will likely instruct you how to perform CPR properly if necessary.

If the person is conscious and clearly breathing, then there are other serious complications to look out for. If you suspect that the person has fallen from a great height or has sustained a neck or spine injury, then ask the person to keep as still as possible and do not move them. This is very critical. In general, if someone falls, then it does not hurt to tell him or her to stay as still as possible to avoid any further injury to the neck or spine.

If the person moves the wrong way, injuries could occur that would decrease quality of life such as paralysis. This can happen because the spinal cord can become damaged by the broken vertebrae in the spine. Another serious complication is bleeding. If there is bleeding, then apply firm pressure with a clean pad. If the person shows signs of shock, such as cool, clammy and pale skin, then lift the legs up, cover the person with a blanket, and try to keep him or her in a warm environment.

Now that you know how to properly deal with falls, you can effectively respond if your friend or relative loses their balance. Once again, it is crucial to recognize that although teenagers are not as susceptible to injury from falling, they can still sustain life-threatening injuries. Moreover, if people believe that they are seriously hurt from a fall, no matter what age they are, call for emergency help immediately. Being able to recognize and treat the injuries that are generally associated with falls is crucial to provide the best odds of recovery for the person.

(Note: These articles are good-faith attempts to be helpful to the Brandeis community and are by no means to be taken as universal. This article does not replace the advice of a medical professional. This article is not written on behalf of the Brandeis Emergency Medical Corps (BEMCo) and is not affiliated with BEMCo in any manner.)

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