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Grandma fell and can't get up. Could a bug to be to blame?

Those in the senior living field in Illinois know that it is a growth industry. The parents of baby boomers are already driving up demand for residential and care facilities and that's only going to increase as baby boomers themselves begin looking for such accommodations.

One of the biggest inherent risks in providing such services is ensuring that residents receive the health care they deserve while being able to maintain the greatest level of independence possible. Falls happen and they can result in serious health complications. What starts as a broken hip can degrade into something worse that ends in death. If those falls happen because of neglect, those responsible should expect to be held accountable.

A look at the numbers gives one an appreciation for how serious an issue this can be. According to data reported by The Washington Post, more than 2 million people in the senior ranks go to the emergency room after a fall. Most of the time, the blame is put on a loss of balance, vision issues or hazards like throw rugs. But new research suggests it's time for doctors and care facilities to consider infections as a possible cause.

A study by officials at Massachusetts General Hospital looked at 161 cases in which patients fell and were later diagnosed as also having some sort of infection. In 41 percent of the cases, clinicians didn't initially consider the presence of an infection because there were few physical symptoms -- such as a fever.

Doctors note that some signs of infection can be more subtle but can still contribute to falls. These would include weakness or lethargy. They say infections can lower blood pressure, cause light-headedness and even contribute to greater confusion in patients with dementia.

The research suggests that if doctors and loved ones are more attentive to considering infection as a possible issue, many falls could be prevented.

And doctors say it's not just the elderly who could benefit. They note that 20 percent of the patients in the Mass Gen study were under the age of 65.

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