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Seniors Are Less Likely to Receive Quality Care After Spine Injury

Older people are more likely to be injured in falls and accidents, but a new study shows they might not be the ones to receive the quickest care. As the number of people over the age of 70 grows, researchers assume that the number of spinal injuries in that segment of the population will also increase.

Currently, people between the ages of 16 and 30 are mostly likely to suffer from injuries to the spine. To compare the handling of elderly patients with younger ones, studies looked at information from the Rick Hansen Spinal Cord Injury Registry in Toronto, Canada. Included were 1,440 Canadians with traumatic spinal cord injuries. Less than 12 percent, or a total of 167, were 70 or older.

For older people and their in-home caregivers, the results are disturbing:

• 83.1 percent of older patients had been hurt in falls compared to 37.4 percent of younger ones.
• Older patients were more likely to have longer stays in acute care hospitals than younger ones although their injuries tended to be less severe.
• The length of time between being injured and receiving care was approximately two times as long for older people than younger ones.
• After being admitted to hospitals, older patients waited twice as long before surgery was performed than younger ones.
• People over the age of 70 were more likely to die from spine-related trauma than younger people.

Dr. Henry Ahn, the author of the study, attributes the discrepancy in treatment to one of two reasons. Medical professionals may be less likely to recognize the severity of injuries among older patients, or the lag in older patients’ care may indicate an age-related bias. The study suggested that mandating timeframes for treating spinal cord injuries, as currently practiced in hip surgery, could be helpful in improving outcomes for the older population.

Meanwhile, caregivers or family members who provide home care for seniors in Toronto should be aware of the problem and advocate for competent care, if needed.

Falling is one of the leading causes of spine injuries in seniors, but a few preventative measures, like securing rugs and widening walkways, can help protect your loved one. You might even consider part-time or live-in home care in Toronto to ensure your loved one has mobility assistance, support with tricky everyday tasks likes grocery shopping and cooking, and help any time of day or night. For more information, call Home Care Assistance at (416) 488-8777 today.