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Walkers and Canes Linked to Falls for Older Adults

By David Goguen | Last updated on

Many older adults rely on walkers and canes to help them get around and remain active, but a new study shows that these devices are also causing falls and emergency room visits for thousands of older Americans every year.

Every day from 2001 to 2006, an average of 129 older adults (age 65 and over) were treated in emergency rooms nationwide for injuries from falls that involved the use of walkers and canes, according to researchers with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That adds up to over 47,000 injuries each year. The study will be published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Take a look at some of the key findings from the CDC's research of fall-related injuries involving walkers and canes:

  • Most of the injuries (87 percent) involved walkers as opposed to canes, and injuries were seven times more likely to occur in falls with a walker versus with a cane.
  • Fractures were the most common type of injury linked to walkers and canes, and about one-third of all injuries were to the lower trunk (hip and pelvis).
  • Over half of all fall injuries linked to walkers and canes happened in the home.
  • Hospitalization was necessary for one in three people whose fall involved a walker, and for 28 percent of people whose fall involved a cane.

What actions can older adults take to protect themselves from falls? CDC offers a number of tips:

Walking Aid Use. Make sure walking assistance devices like canes and walkers are a good fit, and get quality instruction on their proper and safe use.

Exercise. Start an exercise program that can work on increasing your strength and balance. CDC experts recommend Tai Chi as a great exercise options for older adults.

Medication. Talk with your doctor about any medications you're currently taking, ask about any side effects that might cause dizziness or affect muscle co-ordination, and explore options that might reduce those risks.

Home Hazards. Look around your living space and evaluate any dangers that could lead to falls; make sensible modifications like enhancing lighting and improving safety on stairways.

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