UPMC researchers part of $30M study to examine falls in older Americans
Each year, one-third of Americans over age 65 fall, and almost 25 percent of them suffer a serious injury, said Dr. Neil Resnick, head of geriatrics at UPMC.
A $30 million federally funded study will research how falls in older people can be prevented and how injuries suffered during falls can be better treated, said Resnick, a researcher involved in the study.
The national study will focus on patients over 75, the group most at risk. It is expected to take five years but could be finished sooner if it yields definitive results, he said.
“We've known for a long time that with age, the risk of having a fall and the consequences of having a fall escalate dramatically,” Resnick said.
The results of the study will be particularly relevant in Pittsburgh, where 14 percent of the population is over 65, according to the Census Bureau.
Falls accounted for 35 percent of accidental deaths in Allegheny County in 2009 and 2010, according to the Allegheny County Mortality Report from the county health department.
“This could be really good for everyone, not just older people,” Resnick said.
The study will require 6,000 research participants across the country, 600 from the UPMC system. Researchers will identify high-risk patients and ask them if they want to participate.
Gwenn Whiteford, director of rehabilitation for the St. Barnabas Health System, said 27 percent of patients admitted to St. Barnabas Nursing Home in Richland came there because of injuries from a fall. That figure does not include other facilities in the system.
Bill Haas, 78 of Gibsonia is in the age group considered most at risk.
Although he said he was not worried about falling, he and his wife specifically looked for a home where they wouldn't have to haul laundry up and down stairs.
“Everything we have is on the first floor,” said Haas, who was undergoing physical therapy at St. Barnabas Nursing Home after a double-bypass surgery. “And there's only one small step from the garage to the house.”
Cory Meeker, physical therapist at St. Barnabas, said many factors can increase the likelihood of a fall, and patients at St. Barnabas are given advice about how to avoid them. They include proper hand placement for balance, avoiding thick carpeted surfaces and making sure doorways are wide enough for a wheelchair or walker.
Physical therapists are often sent to patients' homes to help identify risks and offer ideas on safety improvements, he said.
The findings of the study could lead to new jobs in technology and pharmaceuticals, lower health insurance premiums by preventing expensive surgeries and nursing home admittances, and allow people in their 40s or 50s to spend less time worrying about their parents, Resnick said.
“It's not easy to prevent falls, but we think we can target the injurious ones,” he said.
Corinne Kennedy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7823 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Body found on North Side
- It’s business, but not as usual in Pittsburgh
- Plum school officials ignoring help, advocacy group’s chief says
- Garfield business reaches out to raise $90K for fixes
- Million-dollar charitable effort aims to help Homewood kids
- Burgess’ rivals for Pittsburgh council nomination owe money to government
- Comcast covers Western Pa. with volunteers
- Newsmaker: Alessandro Acquisti
- TV ad to tout ex-controller Flaherty’s contributions
- House floating along rivers will be new South Side Marina office
- CMU computer ready to take on poker pros in showdown at Rivers Casino