Prolific singer and song writer Leonard Cohen, best known for penning the majestic ballad Hallelujah, died last month at the age of 82. A few days after his death Cohen’s manager reported that he had died in his sleep after a fall in the middle of the night. Whether the fall caused his death or was a warning sign of something else is unclear.
In my time working with seniors I have often seen a rapid decline in the health of a person after a fall. And while the fall might be the cause, very often it is the harbinger of an underlying issue. My own mother had a couple of falls just prior to her cancer diagnosis at age 84, an often repeated scenario.
Falls are a major health concern for seniors. Each year in the United States, one in three people over the age of 65 has a fall. In the age group over 80, the number increases to one in two. For an older adult, the consequences of falling can range from minor injury to devastating trauma, even leading to death in some cases.
Those who fracture a hip or have other major trauma requiring surgery are at great risk for complications that lead to the need for a higher level of care. Only half of older adults hospitalized for a broken hip can return home or live on their own after the injury. In addition to physical injury, the psychological consequences of falling include fear and depression, both of which increase the risk of having another fall.
If a senior experiences a fall without an obvious cause like a tripping hazard, it should be seen as a red flag and taken very seriously. Weakness caused by underlying health issues, visual changes, and medication side effects should all be considered as likely causes.
Leonard Cohen, whether he died from a fall or not, will be greatly missed by many who enjoyed his music. He did something that is characteristic of all who age well- living fully to the end of his life -in spite of changes in his health, releasing his new album in October to rave reviews. RIP Leonard, your songs will rise for a very long time to come.
Be Well on Purpose!