Thursday, September 10, 2015
Each year, millions of adults aged 65 and older fall. According to the Center for Disease Control Injury Center, falls result in more than 2.5 million injuries treated in emergency departments annually, including over 734,000 hospitalizations and more than 21,700 deaths. Approximately three-fourths of fall deaths and three-fourths of total costs are due to traumatic brain injuries and injuries to the lower extremities, such as hip fractures. The result is a hefty price tag. In 2013, the total cost of fall injuries was $34 billion. Medicare costs per fall averaged between $14, 306 and $21,270. Due to the increasing number of seniors in American society, the financial toll for older adult falls is expected to increase to $67.7 billion by 2020. The impact, however, is not just financial. Falls can severely impact a senior’s lifestyle and independence.
Even if an older adult has not fallen, fear of falling can cause a senior to limit his or her activities and social engagements. Those limitations can then result in further physical decline, depression, social isolation, and feelings of helplessness. Falling is not, however, inevitable.
The National Council on Aging recommends the following six steps to prevent a fall and help seniors stay independent:
- Find a good balance and exercise program. Look to build balance, strength, and flexibility. Tai Chi, Silver Sneakers, and Matter of Balance programs are especially good for older adults. Contact 335-4359 for local groups.
- Talk to your health care provider. Ask for an assessment of your risk of falling. Share your history of recent falls.
- Regularly review your medications with your doctor or pharmacist. Make sure side effects aren’t increasing your risk of falling. It is important to identify medicines that can cause drowsiness or dizziness. Take medications only as prescribed.
- Get your vision and hearing checked annually and update your eyeglasses. Consider getting a pair of glasses with single vision distance lenses for some activities such as walking outdoors. Your eyes and ears are key to keeping you on your feet.
- Keep your home safe. Remove tripping hazards such as area rugs and baskets on the floor, increase lighting, make stairs safe by adding handrails on both sides of the stairways, and install grab bars in key areas such as the shower and toilet.
- Talk to your family members. Enlist their support in taking simple steps to stay safe. Falls are not just a seniors’ issue.
In addition, the CDC Injury Center, suggests the following to lower hip fracture risk:
- Get adequate calcium and vitamin D from food and/or supplements. Consult your physician before adding any supplement to your routine.
- Do weight bearing exercise such as yoga, walking, hiking, or dancing.
- Get screened, and if needed, treated for osteoporosis.
Further information about fall prevention can be found at https://www.ncoa.org/FallsFreeInitiative.
Locally, the Genesee Valley Health Partnership and the Livingston County Office for the Aging in cooperation with Noyes Health are sponsoring the 2nd Annual Fall Prevention Workshop on Friday, September 25, 2015 from10:30 am to 2:30 pm at the United Methodist Church in Geneseo. This free event will highlight several fall prevention experts and includes lunch. Attendees will learn strategies and skills to prevent falls in the home and connect with local resources and agencies. Registration is required and space is limited. To register, please call 335-4359 or email email@example.com.
Lorraine Wichtowski is a community health educator at Noyes Health in Dansville. If you have questions or suggestions for future articles she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 585-335-4327.