The Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Westwood. Photo by John Schreiber.
The Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Westwood. Photo by John Schreiber.

More than half a million older Californians — 12.6 percent of the state’s senior population — fall more than once a year, but nearly 60 percent of them fail to seek medical attention afterward, according to a study by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research issued Thursday.

The study also found that among those who did seek treatment, 40 percent did not receive counseling from a medical provider about how to prevent future falls.

Falls are the leading injury-related cause of death and need for medical care among Californians age 65 and older, according to the study.

In 2012, more than 1,800 seniors died after falling and seniors’ fall- related injuries resulted in more than 72,000 hospitalizations, UCLA said.

“There is a cost in terms of both lives and resources when doctors fail to talk to seniors who have already fallen about how to prevent future falls,” said Steven Wallace, associate director of the Center for Health Policy Research and author of the study.

Using data from the 2011-12 California Health Interview Survey, the study found older seniors are twice as likely as younger seniors to have multiple falls — almost 1 in 5 people 85 and older reported that they fell more than once a year, compared with 1 in 10 of those aged 65 to 74.

Nearly a quarter of seniors who have suffered a stroke, and almost 20 percent of those with any disability, had multiple falls, and 26 percent of seniors with moderate mental impairment had multiple falls, as did 38 percent with severe mental impairment, the study shows.

The survey also found that less than one-third of the estimated 325,000 seniors who didn’t seek care after multiple falls talked with their doctor during a regular medical visit about how to prevent falls.

Wallace said the figure isn’t very surprising because the patients probably didn’t reveal that they had taken some tumbles.

But Wallace was more surprised that the large percentage of doctors who knew they were treating multiple-fall patients failed to discuss how to avoid future incidents — 40 percent of seniors did not receive any fall prevention recommendations from a doctor or medical professional during their care, he said.

“When a patient with a track record of falling comes in for treatment, the health care provider should try to find out why and make appropriate suggestions,” Wallace said. “Did the patient trip on a rug? Is medication making her dizzy? The safety of their patients may depend on them asking these questions.”

City News Service

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