Spike in traumas partly due to growing aging Idaho population

Spike in traumas partly due to aging Idahoans.

BOISE -- The number of people in our area suffering from major traumatic injuries is on the rise.

Falling is the number one cause of trauma (35% of trauma mechanisms in 2016) while the number-one demographic for critical traumatic injuries is in people age 65 years and older.

The Saint Alphonsus trauma center is seeing more and more traumatic injuries. Trauma medical director Dr. Bill Morgan says the total number of patients with some form of trauma has increased 8 percent year-over-year for at least the last six years. In 2007, Morgan says roughly 800 patients were listed on the trauma registry.

"This past year, we put about 1,600 patients on that registry," Dr. Morgan told KTVB. "Every year it calculates out to about 8-percent a year increase in the number of patients we're seeing on the trauma service or we're admitting to trauma registry here."

Part of that spike is due to a growing aging population: a phenomena that the Treasure Valley, and Idaho as a whole, is experiencing.

"There are nights when the number of patients that arrive at the same time can be overwhelming, even though you might have an adequate number of staff," Dr. Morgan said.

As the only major trauma center within 350 miles, Saint Alphonsus is tracking the data as the emergency room and the trauma center in Boise are getting busier.

"I think the swell is just now beginning," Dr. Morgan added. "I would say the busy nights are getting more and more common."

A booming population and a better, healthier economy are both correlated with the growth in number of traumas. 

"I think with that extra spendable income they're out there putting themselves at risk sometimes," Morgan said.

Experts say another factor is an influx in retirees moving to Idaho and Idaho's existing population getting older; most communities in rural Idaho, eastern Oregon and northern Nevada are aging.

Doctors say most critical injuries are occurring in older folks.

"We see a lot of falls, a lot of older folks who are not quite as balanced as they used to be," Morgan said. "They come in here and they have head injuries and they have broken bones."

According to the Idaho Department of Labor, the majority of Idaho's population growth over the next 10 years is projected to be in retirement age groups. The 65 and older population is projected to increase from 243,356 to 330,334, for a growth rate of more than twice the state's total population growth. The Department of Labor noted "while the over-65 population currently accounts for only 14.7 percent of Idaho's population, it is forecast to account for 34.4 percent of the total growth".

"Aged parents are following their children. Now their children are the decision makers. They're going to be more mobile. and we're going to see the baby boomers even be more mobile," General Manager at Garden Plaza and The Bridge at Valley View, Pamela Sternberg, said. 

"I think we've become a much more mobile society than we use to be," Dr. Morgan added.

Sternberg tells KTVB over the last several years, seniors have been staying home and living independently perhaps  longer than they should.

"When you're not leaving your house for weeks on end, you get pretty weak."

Sternberg says our older folks find themselves in riskier situations when they're continuing to do the things they're used to doing, but they're not in a safe environment.

"There's a million different reasons people fall," she said. "And with every fall is a chance of hurting yourself and having trauma and ending up in the emergency room."

She says most falls occur when elderly folks are carrying out daily chores or routines, such as getting the mail or making the bed.

There was also a huge spike in emergency room visits over the harsh winter months. Mounds of ice and snow built up and caused broken bones, mainly in our older population.

MORE: Spike in hospital visits because of harsh winter weather 

Many elderly people have underlying diseases or are taking medications that make caring for them as patients different, Dr. Morgan says, and can even lead to them winding up in the operating room.

"They have special needs, they frequently have co-morbidities: they have heart disease, they have lung disease, they may have diabetes. So all those things taken into consideration... you have to take care of all the underlying disease processes then you have to take care of the patient who has the trauma at the same time," Dr. Morgan added.

© 2017 KTVB-TV


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