Once Just an Aging Sign, Falls Merit Complex Care

November 8, 2008

The New York Times

MEDFORD, N.J. — Katherine Aliminosa, 93, shattered her lower leg while getting snacks for her nieces.

Susan Arnold, 87, broke her hip hanging a photograph.

In mid-July, in a nursing unit of a retirement community here, the two women were at the start of a recovery process that both hoped would return them to their previous lives.

Their progress over the next few months, and their divergent outcomes, illustrate the unpredictable impact that common falls can have on the bodies of older people.

By early autumn, Ms. Aliminosa had graduated to an independent living apartment and was able to get around with a walker. She looked like a different person: more robust, content.

Though six years younger, Ms. Arnold never recovered her strength after hip surgery. Her muscles atrophied from inactivity, and she developed pneumonia. She died on Sept. 6.

Once considered an inevitable part of aging, falls are now recognized as complex, often preventable events with multiple causes and consequences, calling for a wide range of interventions, both psychological and physiological, that many patients never receive. More…