Survey of domestic accidents in the elderly in the Province of Genoa (Northern Italy)


Introduction. Accidents in the home are a major public health issue in most industrialised countries, as they are a frequent cause of injury and death. Moreover, since a considerable por- tion of such accidents involve elderly people, it is important to assess their social impact in this population. In Italy, the avail- able data indicate that well over 3 million people per year suffer accidents in the home, and that this number is rising. The aim of the present study was to evaluate the number, characteristics and causes of domestic accidents among the elderly. Materials and methods. The study population was made up of subjects of both sexes aged between 65 and 92 years admitted to first aid units and emergency departments of hospitals in Genoa. The investigation was conducted by means of an ad hoc question- naire designed to record the circumstances of the accident, the functional capacity of the subject involved, any risky behaviour enacted and the safety profile of the subject?s home. Results. The study enrolled 111 voluntary participants: 62 women and 49 men. At the time of the accident, subjects were engaged in the following activities: housework (36.9%) ?rest? (14.5%), ablutions (10%), gardening (9%), leisure activities (8.1%), eating and drinking (2.7%). The most common injuries were bruises (39.6%), followed by fractures (23.4%) and cuts (23.4%); the frequency of other, some time more severe injures (burns, poisoning, asphyxia, crush injuries, etc.) was, fortunately, very low. Anyway, taking into account their consequences, their surveillance and prevention is very important. Most subjects were deemed to be in good health and, in 76% of cases, the safety profile of their houses proved to be satisfactory. Discussion and conclusions. The data collected during this survey are in line with those yielded by national and inter- national studies. They show that the elderly are very vulner- able to domestic accidents and that, even in the event of only slight injury, the management of elderly victims requires a strong organisational commitment on the part of relatives and considerable financial resources for healthcare services. Fall- ing proved to be the main cause of injury. Clearly, efforts to reduce the cost of accidents in the home should aim to imple- ment preventive intervention among elderly people, since the elderly population is destined to grow as a result of increasing life expectancy. In particular, preventive action should focus on reducing the incidence of falls by eliminating risk-related structural features in domestic settings as far as possible and by raising public awareness of the problem through health education campaigns.