Most of us have an elderly family member that we cherish. That also means we worry about our loved one. One common source of that worry is the risk of a fall. The elderly, after all, are particularly susceptible to falling and are more likely to be seriously injured if they do fall. To help you keep your loved one safe, a Carmel estate planning attorney at Frank & Kraft explains the elderly fall danger and offers tips to help prevent your loved one from falling.
Elderly Fall Facts and Figures
Most people realize that therisk of a fall increases with age; however, you may not be aware just how at-riskseniors are. Consider the following facts and figures from the U.S. Centers forDisease Control and Prevention:
- One in fourAmericans aged 65 and older falls each year.
- Every 11seconds, an older adult is treated in the emergency room for a fall; every 19minutes, an older adult dies from a fall.
- Falls are theleading cause of fatal injury and the most common cause of nonfataltrauma-related hospital admissions among older adults.
- Falls result inmore than 2.8 million injuries treated in emergency departments annually,including over 800,000 hospitalizations and more than 27,000 deaths.
- In 2015, thetotal cost of fall injuries was $50 billion. Medicare and Medicaid shouldered75 percent of these costs.
- The financialtoll for older adult falls is expected to increase as the population ages andmay reach $67.7 billion by 2020.
What Causes the Elderly to Fall?
While every fall is causedby a unique set of circumstances, there are some common factors that contributeto the average senior fall, including:
- Balanceand gait: As we age, most of us losesome coordination, flexibility, and balance— primarily through inactivity,making it easier to fall.
- Vision: In the aging eye, less light reaches theretina—making contrasting edges, tripping hazards, and obstacles harder to see.
- Medications: Some prescriptions and over-the-countermedications can cause dizziness, dehydration or interactions with each otherthat can lead to a fall.
- Environment: Most seniors have lived in their homes for a longtime and have never thought about simple modifications that might keep it saferas they age.
- Chronicconditions: More than 80 percent ofolder adults have at least one chronic condition like diabetes, stroke, orarthritis. Often, these increase the risk of falling because they result inlost function, inactivity, depression, pain, or multiple medications.
Preventing a Fall
If you are concerned that anelderly loved one might be at risk for a fall, there are several steps you/theycan take that will significantly decrease the risk of a senior fall, accordingto the National Institute on Aging:
- Stayactive. Plan an appropriateexercise program. Regular exercise improves muscles and makes you stronger. Italso helps keep joints, tendons, and ligaments flexible. Mild weight-bearingactivities, such as walking or climbing stairs, may also slow bone loss fromosteoporosis.
- Testeyes and hearing. Even smallchanges in sight and hearing may cause a fall. When you get new eyeglasses orcontact lenses, take time to get used to them. Always wear glasses or contactswhen you need them and if you have a hearing aid, be sure it fits well and wearit.
- Knowthe side effects of medication.If a drug makes you sleepy or dizzy, tell your doctor or pharmacist.
- Getenough sleep. If you aresleepy, you are more likely to fall.
- Limitalcohol consumption. Even a smallamount of alcohol can affect your balance and reflexes. Studies show that therate of hip fractures in older adults increases with alcohol use.
- Standup slowly. Getting up too quickly cancause your blood pressure to drop. That can make you feel wobbly. Get yourblood pressure checked when lying and standing.
- Usean assistive device if needed.Appropriate use of canes and walkers can prevent falls. If your doctor tellsyou to use a cane or walker, make sure it is the right size for you and thewheels roll smoothly.
- Bevery careful when walking on wet or icy surfaces. They can be very slippery! Try to have sand orsalt spread on icy areas by your front or back door.
- Wearnon-skid, rubber-soled, low-heeled shoes, or lace-up shoes with non-skid solesthat fully support your feet.It is important that the soles are not too thin or too thick. Don’t walk onstairs or floors in socks or in shoes and slippers with smooth soles.
- Alwaystell your doctor if you have fallen since your last checkup. A fall can alert your doctor to a new medicalproblem or problems with your medications or eyesight that can be corrected.Your doctor may suggest physical therapy, a walking aid, or other steps to helpprevent future falls.
Contact a Carmel Elder Law Attorney
For more information, please join us for a FREE upcoming seminar.If you have additional questions or concerns about elder law issues, contact anexperienced Carmel elder law attorney at Frank & Kraft by calling (317) 684-1100 to schedule anappointment.
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