Back in the late 1980s, we were alerted to the problem of falls in the home in a unique way. A company called Life Call began marketing a 24-hour monitoring service for elders living alone. If the elder needed assistance and couldn't reach a phone, he or she could simply press a button on a pendant worn around the neck and instantly connect to a dispatcher, who would call emergency services. TV commercials featured an elderly woman who had fallen in the bathroom, who tells the dispatcher, "I've fallen, and I can't get up." That line became a catchphrase and turned up in everything from TV shows to comedy routines. In 2007, it was ranked by USA Today as the most memorable marketing campaign of the past 25 years [source: USA Today].
Although the commercial was funny, falls in the home are anything but. They're the leading cause of injury-related death in people age 65 and older. In 2005, about 2 million elders visited an emergency room for fall-related injuries, and 20 to 30 percent of them suffered severe injuries that can greatly decrease mobility or even shorten lives, such as broken hips or traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) [source: CDC].
We often associate the risk of falling with people who have mobility problems, but that's not necessarily the case. The first way to prevent falls has nothing to do with using a walker or a cane.