Statistics on the incidence and cost of falls

Loss of balance, and the falls that result, are serious problems. Although all age groups are subject to falls, the risk of falling increases exponentially with age (Samelson et al., 2002). In fact, more than one-third of community-dwelling elderly and 60% of nursing home residents fall each year (Hornbrook et al., 1994; Fuller, 2000; Hausdorff et al., 2001). In addition, the incidence of falls in people with neurologic pathology such as PD may be more than double that of age-matched healthy subjects. Falls are often the precursor to immobility, lack of independence, and even death. In fact, falls are the leading cause of death in people over 85 years and the leading cause of injuries in people over 65 years (Alexander et al., 1992; Murphy, 2000). The total cost of all fall injuries in people age 65 or older in the USA was over $20.2 billion in 1994 (Englander et al., 1996). This cost is expected to increase to $32.4 billion by 2020, as the elderly population grows. Given the high personal and economic cost of falls and the high incidence of balance problems in patients seen for rehabilitation, a basic understanding of balance control, assessment, and rehabilitation is essential for effective treatment.

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