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Safety incidents involving elderly people: prevention in everyday life is better than cure 2018-01-15

 

Safety incidents involving elderly people: prevention in everyday life is better than cure

 

- Need to pay attention to falls, slips or trips that may cause ‘fractures’ or ‘brain injury’

- The KCA produced a guide to preventing safety-related incidents involving elderly people in association with Seoul National University Hospital

 

    With the improvement of standards of living and advances in medical technology, the population has been ageing rapidly, and the number of safety-related incidents involving older people has also been rising every year. Since even minor incidents that may take place when doing everyday activities can cause severe injuries to older people, and make them suffer from long-term aftereffects of such injuries even after getting treatment, it is very important to prevent those incidents from occurring in the first place.

    On this account, the Korea Consumer Agency (KCA) and one of the organizations that provide consumer injury information*, Seoul National University Hospital, have made a guide to preventing safety-related incidents involving elderly people based on the results of the analysis on the cases regarding safety-related incidents among older people aged 65 and over.

 

    *In accordance with Article 52 ofFramework Act on Consumersand Article 39 of the Enforcement Decree of the Framework Act on Consumers, organs including 62 hospitals and 18 fire stations are designated and operated to submit information on dangers and injuries to the Consumer Safety Center of the KCA.

 

‘Slips, trips or falls’ taking place inside the ‘home’ are the most common cause of injury among elderly people.

    It was found that the number of cases regarding safety-related incidents among elderly people reported at the Consumer Injury Surveillance System (CISS) of the KCA during the year of 2016 accounted for 5,795*.

 

      Number of case by year (year-on-year rate): 4,453 cases in 2014(16.2%), 5,111 cases in 2015(14.8), 5,795 cases(13.4%) in 2016

 

    A large majority of safety-related incidents involving elderly people occurred at ‘home’ (3,506 cases, 60.5%), and ‘slips, trips and falls’ (2,746 cases, 47.4%) in areas such as bedroom, bathroom and stairs made up almost half of the incidents.

    ‘Fractures (1,214 cases, 44.2%)’ were the predominant injury following falls, slips or trips, and since elderly people have low bone density and reduced muscle mass, even minor injuries to them can lead to fractures more easily compared to young people. And the most commonly injured body parts during fall were the ‘hip, leg and foot (952 cases, 34.7%)’ and the ‘head and face (912 cases, 33.2%)’, respectively.

    Injuries involving the head or face can lead to ‘traumatic brain injury’ such as cerebral hemorrhage that can cause reduction in brain activity or lead to death in the worst case scenario. In fact, an analysis of 82 elderly patients who came to the emergency room of Seoul National University Hospital due to safety-related incidents and were diagnosed with ‘traumatic brain injury’ in 2016 revealed that the leading cause of the incidents was ‘falls, slips or trips (63 persons, 76.8%)’.

 

Households with elderly people and senior care facilities for elderly people need to create an elder-friendly environment for the prevention of safety-related incidents.

    Once elderly people get injured, it is very hard for them to completely recover from such injuries, and long-term treatment is needed. Therefore, it is crucial to prevent those injuries from occurring in advance. To this end, the KCA and Seoul National University Hospital have produced a guide to preventing and coping with safety-related incidents (e.g. falls, slips or trips) frequently occurring to the elderly in the form of a leaflet. The leaflets will be distributed through local governments and made available online, and also used as education materials for elderly consumers.

    In addition, the KCA and Seoul National University Hospital have asked households with elderly people and senior care facilities to create an elder-friendly environment where elderly people can be protected from injuries by placing grab bars and anti-slip floor mats in areas such as bedroom, bathroom and stairs, installing more lights to make interior spaces brighter, and removing any objects that may cause trips.

    Furthermore, to help prevent injuries while walking, both organizations have also recommended that elderly people use walking equipment when they have trouble walking, and avoid going out as much as possible when roads are icy in the winter.

 

    The KCA will continue to make efforts to thoroughly analyze the types and causes of safety-related incidents involving elderly people or children along with organizations that are designated and operated to submit information on dangers and injuries to the Consumer Safety Center of the KCA, so that those incidents can be prevented.

 

    

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