It’s National Falls Prevention Awareness Week – Here’s the Latest in Fall Prevention

Marianne, 78, has always led an active life. She enjoys riding her bike, doing yoga, walking on the beach, volunteering, and visiting with friends.

Early one morning a few months ago, Marianne woke up and heard a noise, noticing that a light was on downstairs. She got out of bed quickly, figuring that her daughter came by earlier than expected. As she hurried down the stairs and toward the kitchen to greet her daughter, she fell and landed directly on her right foot. She knew she was hurt but did not know how badly. Her daughter, who had in fact arrived early, convinced her to call 911 and wait for them to avoid further injury. At the hospital, an x-ray showed she had three fractures in her ankle and would require surgery.

Marianne is recovering, taking it one day at a time, and trying to have a good attitude. Since then, she has been very fearful of reinjuring herself and being alone in her home when it happens. The stairs in her Colonial-style home remain a concern. For peace of mind and for her safety, she knows she needs to do something to prevent this from happening again.

Falls Have Become Much More Common

Falls are a serious health risk. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that one American senior falls every second. Falls currently lead to 32,000 deaths annually among older US adults. Older Americans are dying of falls at more than double the rate of 20 years ago, according to a new study.

The National Council on Aging (NCOA) organizes Falls Prevention Awareness Week. This year, it is from September 18 to September 22, 2023. The purpose of the week is to raise awareness about preventing falls, reducing the risk of falls, and helping older adults live without fear of falling. The theme for this year’s Falls Prevention Awareness Week is “From Awareness to Action.” The NCOA has expanded their Fall Prevention Toolkit and released a new “6 Steps to Fall Prevention” guide to help older adults understand how they can take action and prevent falls. NCOA’s Falls Free Check-Up is a quick online self-screening tool to assess your likelihood of experiencing a fall in the next year and helps you identify risk factors to reduce your risk.

What You Can Do to Prevent Falls

Falling among older adults aged 65 and over may be common, but falling is NOT a natural part of aging. Staying strong and practicing balance skills are critical to managing your fall risk. The stronger your legs, the better your balance, and the less chance you will experience a fall; and if you do experience a fall, the less chance you will experience an injury.

Research shows that certain exercises are better for older adults to improve strength and balance. NCOA offers a guide with some of the best exercises for balance and fall prevention here. Older adults should combine a strength and balance program with a walking program for the greatest protection against a fall. You should plan on working up to a 30-minute walk, three times a week. Be sure to see a doctor or physical therapist if you:

  • Feel unsteady.
  • Think you may need a walker or a cane.
  • Have an issue that limits your ability to exercise, such as arthritis or an old injury.
  • Have severe pain that makes it difficult to move normally.
  • Have fallen in the past and are worried you will fall again.

Also, be sure to consult with a doctor before starting any exercise program.

New Fall Detection and Prevention Technology

Technology is also doing its part to help keep seniors safe from falls. Artificial Intelligence (AI) fall technology is the most advanced fall prevention technology currently available. In nursing homes, for instance, it works in tandem with in-room sensors to detect signs of a patient trying to stand and alerts nurses before the patient has exited the bed or chair, preventing falls completely. These are some examples of the latest AI and other fall prevention technology:

  • SafelyYou is a technology that uses wall-mounted cameras enabled with artificial intelligence (AI) to evaluate resident falls in long-term care. SafelyYou reduces falls and resulting visits to the emergency room and helps staff provide immediate and appropriate care to residents. Studies have shown that, on average, using SafelyYou decreases falls by 40 percent and emergency room visits by 70 percent.
  • Two companies, Nourish Care and Lilli are working together to help predict falls before they occur. Lilli’s software non-intrusively monitors people using “soft signs,” recording the patterns and trends of everyday life to help care providers identify abnormalities that could indicate a change in the patient’s condition, identifying potential health issues before they arise or worsen. Nourish Care produces software that lets caregivers take more accurate notes during patient visits and sends live information to keep managers up to date and make better patient care decisions.
  • A new Apple Watch app, BoundaryCare, lets caregivers improve loved one’s safety by helping them detect potential falls and wandering behaviors through geo-fencing. Apple Watches themselves have great fall detection technology, as I discuss in this article.
  • Another device, Cherish Serenity, uses AI radar technology to detect biometrics, body movements, falls, and other safety risks through sensors.
  • HSC Technology is testing new tools that use the internet of things in fall prevention.

Looking for more information, strategies, and technology for Fall Prevention? Please read our articles on the subject for more details and technology offerings.

When Technology and Taking Preventative Measures Isn’t Enough

When taking preventative measures for fall detection isn’t enough to continue aging in place, assisted living or nursing home care may be necessary. However, nursing homes in Northern Virginia, DC, and Maryland can cost as much as $150,000 per year or more, a catastrophic amount that can quickly lead to financial ruin.

It is always wise to plan ahead for the very likely possibility that you will need long-term care. Life Care Planning and Medicaid Asset Protection is the process of protecting assets from having to be “spent down” in connection with getting nursing home level care (either at home or in a nursing home), while also helping ensure that you get the best possible care if you do end up needing nursing level care.

If you have not done Incapacity Planning, Long-Term Care Planning, or Estate Planning (or had your Planning documents reviewed in the past three to five years), now is a good time to plan and get prepared! Please contact us whenever you are ready to ensure that you have the appropriate level of planning:

Northern Virginia Elder Law Attorney: 703-691-1888
Fredericksburg, VA Elder Law Attorney: 540-479-1435
Rockville, MD Elder Law Attorney: 301-519-8041
Annapolis, MD Elder Law Attorney: 410-216-0703
DC Elder Law: 202-587-2797

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About Evan H Farr, CELA, CAP

Evan H. Farr is a 4-time Best-Selling author in the field of Elder Law and Estate Planning. In addition to being one of approximately 500 Certified Elder Law Attorneys in the Country, Evan is one of approximately 100 members of the Council of Advanced Practitioners of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and is a Charter Member of the Academy of Special Needs Planners.

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