News Column

Falling Down Is Expensive

Nov. 22, 2012

Anna Lamy

Doctor

Older adults, over the age of 65, falls are the leading cause of injury death in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Falls are also the most common cause of hospital admissions for trauma and non-fatal injury for older adults.

In 2010, medical costs related to falls, adjusted to inflation, was estimated at $30 billion.

Most common injuries from a fall are lacerations, hip fractures, and head traumas. The most common fractures are to the hip, spine, forearm, leg, ankle, pelvis, upper arm, and hand. Due to these moderate to severe injuries, individuals who live independently find it hard to get around and increases their risk to early death.

Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) account for 46 percent of the fatal falls among older adults, in 2000.

For those who have fallen, regardless of injury, tend to develop a fear of a repeat occurrence, causing them to limit their daily activities, reducing mobility, loss of physical fitness, as a result can increase their risk to falling.

Glen Scharfeld, M.S. owner of Senior Helpers, discussed the significance of fall prevention during the holidays and year round.

"Falls have become a nationwide problem and despite what people may think about the older population, falls are not inevitable," Scharfeld said. "In fact, they are largely preventable. Trained in-home caregivers can help spot danger areas in and out of a person's home so they can move around their environment more carefully."

According to the CDC, men are more likely to die from a fall than women. People age 75 and older, compared to persons age 65-74, who fall are more likely to be admitted to a long term care facility for a year or more.

"For patients diagnosed with Alzheimer's or dementia, it is advised for the person to wear hip protectors, walk where aid is within reach," advises Scharfeld.

Additional recommendations he made include lowering the bed at night and use bed rails, encourage the person to sleep with their head slightly elevated, and use a seatbelt on the shower chair, and not leave the person unattended in the bathroom.

Preventative measures include exercising regularly, review medications with physician or pharmacist, have eyes checked regularly, and make the home safe by reducing tripping hazards.

Daily diet should include calcium and vitamin D from food or supplements, weight bearing exercises, get screened for osteoporosis, and seek treatment if diagnosed.



Distributed by MCT Information Services



Source: (c) 2012 the Hernando Today (Brooksville, Fla.)