Alarming trend taking lives of seniors in Olmsted County
(ABC 6 News) – New data from the Southern Minnesota Regional Medical Examiner’s Office shows an alarming trend in deadly falls for seniors living in Olmsted County.
The report states that in 2021, accidental falls were the leading cause of an unnatural death in seniors, taking the lives of 186 people. It says that once you are past 65+ years old, the risk of a fatal fall becomes more severe.
“This is elderly people, typically, that are falling and injuring themselves. Typically at home, or some sort of relatively innocuous type of injury, but you have enough other conditions, you’re frail enough, that’s enough to lead to your death,” explained Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Ross Reichard.
Accidental falls are more common than you think.
While complete data for 2022 is not fully complete, it is estimated that the Rochester Fire Department has responded to almost 1,000 calls for assistance for falls.
“I don’t think it’s widely known or understood that is a significant call for service for the fire department,” said Holly Mulholland, the assistant chief with the RFD. “If you experience a fall, you’re not alone. It’s actually a very common thing.”
Mulholland also doubles as the Olmsted County Fall Prevention Coalition spokesperson for RFD.
The coalition is composed of members from public, private and non-profit groups in the county that work together to combine data and resources to help prevent these dangerous situations from happening.
Mulholland says that, unfortunately, many people are afraid to tell anyone that they have fallen down.
“That’s a fear, that if they reach out, they won’t be able to stay in their home. Just realize that there are lots of resources out there aimed at trying to keep you safe in your home and having those honest discussions might help make you less likely to fall again,” Mulholland explained.
She says it is crucial that you let a family member and your physician know what happened.
First responders suggest ways that you can prevent any dangerous falls from occurring, like making sure your home is decluttered as well as installing physical amenities, like handrails, if necessary. Things like loose cords or bulky rugs should never be in the main living area and walkways if you can help it.
Another tip is to have a cell phone or any way to call for help on you at all times.
“Making sure that you’re able to communicate with somebody when you’re on the floor,” said Dr. Daniel Chiang with Mayo Clinic Health Systems in Albert Lea and Austin. “We have a lot of unfortunate instances where elderly have a fall, and they cant get to a phone, and they aren’t found for hours or days later. It’s really unfortunate.”
For lift assistance calls that do not need medical attention, RFD will refer you to resources and programs aimed at helping you avoid falling again. Here are ways that the Rochester/Olmsted Falls Prevention Coalition can assist you:
- Free Home Safety Visits Olmsted County residents to help identify and address safety hazards in your home. To inquire or set up a Free Home Safety Visit, call Family Service Rochester at 507-287-2010.
- The coalition provides education to Olmsted County groups interested in learning more about preventing falls. To set up a presentation, call 507-328-7500.