What should I know about my senior parent and the risk of accidents?
Falling Seniors is an increasing threat to our population. Because of recent medical advances, more and more people can live into the golden age of retirement. But aging comes with risks. The risk of falling for seniors has increased over the last two decades. Here are some statistics that have been gathered to put the problem in proportion:
|Seniors as of 2006||37 million|
|Seniors who fall||11 million|
|Seniors who treated for falls in Emergency Rooms||1.6 million|
|Deaths from falls per year||12,800|
|Average cost of a fall||$19,440|
|Current cost for falls||$20.2 billion|
|GDP of Costa Rica||$22 billion|
|Total Cost by 2020 for falls||$44 billion|
|Percent of senior with fractured hips to lose independence||25%|
|Percent of seniors with hip fractures to die within one year||20%|
|Total cost of hip fractures||$4.7 billion|
|Percent of seniors to have one serious fall per year||at least 30%|
|Percent of falls that result in life altering injuries||20%-30%|
|Percent of falls occurring at home||70%|
|Percent of admissions to nursing homes due to a fall||40%|
|Percent of falls resulting in serious complications (ie broken bones)||15%|
What are the leading risk factors for falling? Here is a partial list:
- Past history of a fall
- Mental difficulties (dementia)
- Older women – especially Caucasians and Asians
- Weakness in the feet or legs
- Problems with walking, balancing, vision, or hearing
- Arthritis or Parkinson’s disease
- Living alone
Thankfully, despite the woeful numbers or warning signs there is good news! Here are recommendations to reduce the risk of falling and to reduce the severity of falls.
The CDC recommends four things to reduce falls:
- Start exercising (like Tai Chi)
- Review your medications (some cause blurred vision)
- Have your vision checked
- Make your home safer and softer (70% of falls occur at home)
The American Academy of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation recommends six additional things:
- Increase the lighting in your home and have a night light.
- Remove things from the floor and make sure rugs are well secured.
- Secure showers and baths with handrails and non-slip floors
- Restrict pet movements to areas of your home.
- Wear good shoes with non-skid soles
- Maintaining a healthy diet with calcium and vitamin D
If you do fall, and do not have a medical alarm, here are instructions from the National Institute of Health on what to do:
A sudden fall can be startling and frightening. If you fall, try to stay calm. Take a few deep breaths to help you relax.
- Roll over onto your side and push yourself up into a seated position.
- Rest while your body and blood pressure adjust.
- Slowly get up on your hands and knees, and crawl to a sturdy chair.
- Put your hands on the chair seat and slide one foot forward so that it is flat on the floor. Keep the other leg bent so the knee is on the floor.
- From this kneeling position, slowly rise and turn your body to sit in the chair.
If you’re hurt or can’t get up, ask someone for help or call 911. If you’re alone, try to get into a comfortable position and wait for help to arrive.
As you already knew, falls pose a serious risk to seniors. If a senior receives help in the first hour, the “golden hour” there is a 90% chance that they will return home. If a senior is does not receive help within six hours, there is a 90% chance they will require a nursing home. We are here to help. Getting help as soon as a senior falls is the absolute best thing that can be done. The sooner they are helped, the less likely they are to sustain serious injuries and need long term nursing. Medical Alarms also give seniors and their family peace of mind. You want the assurance that help is on the way for a senior you know and care for, rather then letting them stay on the floor helpless.
Here are two downloadable guides from the CDC: What You Can Do to Prevent Falls and Stay Independent.
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