Six Myths About Falls

Q. I recently visited my parents, who are in their 70’s, and have been worried ever since. My father, Sam, fell three times during the two days I was there. Often, my mother, Elaine, has lunch out and quilts with her friends, leaving dad home by himself. I questioned my mother about it and she said that falls are a normal part of aging and that she isn’t concerned. I don’t feel comfortable with this explanation. What if something happens to my father and no one is around. How common are falls in older people, and is there anything I can do to keep an eye on my father when no one is around?

A. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has reported that one-third of people over the age of 65 experience a fall each year, accounting for roughly 3 million visits to the ER and almost $30 billion in direct medical costs. The CDC is anticipating this number to reach an alarming $67.7 billion by 2020.

One in three residents living in a community who are over the age of 65 falls each year, and this number increases to fifty percent for people over age 80. Fall-related injuries are often serious enough to result in hospitalization and even premature death. Individuals who fall often face significant declines in mobility and independence.

Last week, on the first day of Fall, we celebrated Falls Prevention Awareness Day. This year’s theme was “Strong Today, Falls Free Tomorrow” and its purpose was to raise awareness about how to prevent fall-related injuries among older adults. As part of the initiative, the National Council on Aging (NCOA) introduced a list of myths about falls, including the one that you mentioned (that falls are a normal part of aging). Here are six of the myths and the realities to debunk them, provided by NCOA:

Myth 1: Falling happens to other people, not to me.
Reality: The truth is that one in three older adults – about 12 million – fall every year in the United States.

Myth 2: Falling is something normal that happens as you get older.
Reality: Falling is not a normal part of aging. Exercises, medication management, vision checks, and a safer living environmental are all steps you can take to prevent a fall.

Myth 3: If I limit my activity, I won’t fall.
Reality: Not necessarily true. Besides, performing physical activities helps seniors stay independent. Social activities are also good for overall health.

Myth 4: As long as I stay home, I can avoid falling.
Reality: Over half of all falls happen at home! Inspect your home for fall risks. Clear clutter and throw rugs and fix poor lighting. Make simple home modifications such as grab bars in the bathroom and nonslip paint on outdoor steps.

Myth 5: Muscle strength and flexibility can’t be regained.
Reality: People do lose muscle as they age, but exercise and Physical Therapy can help restore strength and flexibility.

Myth 6: Taking medication doesn’t increase my risk of falling.
Reality: Taking any medication may increase your risk of falling. Medications can sometimes make you dizzy or sleepy. Talk to a health care provider about potential side effects or interactions of any medications you take.

The NCOA, which is part of the National Institutes for Health (NIH), offers the free Falls and Fractures page for more tips on preventing falls. NCOA also offers a toolkit with printable materials to educate people about falls. Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) launched the STEADI (Stopping Elderly Accidents, Deaths & Injuries) Tool Kit for Health Care Providers. In addition, the CDC is coordinating efforts and seeking financial support to launch a falls prevention campaign with the Ad Council. For more details and for CDC fall prevention resources, including older adult falls prevention guides for health care professionals, brochures, posters, podcasts, and more, visit the CDC website.

You asked how you can keep an eye on your father when no one is around. Sensor-based home monitoring systems can alert a family member or caregiver of an emergency or when something unusual has happened. For example, if a senior has not left the bathroom for an extended period of time, it could mean he or she has fallen. Personal emergency response systems, known as PERS, can also contain GPS technology. If in trouble, the wearer can press a button and be connected with a call center that can dispatch help and notify caregivers. Many PERS devices only work at home, but a few allow the wearer to get help wherever they are — on the golf course, in the car, or around the block. Read our blog post for more technology options for monitoring family members at risk of falling.

When taking preventative measures isn’t enough, assisted living or nursing home care may be needed for your loved one. Nursing homes in Washington, D.C., Fairfax, Virginia, and the rest of Northern Virginia can cost as much as $144,000 per year, while Fredericksburg, Virginia nursing homes and nursing homes in and the rest of Virginia can cost as much as $105,000 per year.

The Medicaid Asset Protection Law Firm of Evan H. Farr, P.C. handles Life Care Planning and Medicaid Asset Protection, which is the process of protecting you or your loved ones from having to go broke to pay for nursing home care, while also helping ensure that you or your loved ones get the best possible care and maintain the highest possible quality of life, whether at home, in an assisted living facility, or in a nursing home. Learn more at The Fairfax, Fredericksburg, and Washington, DCMedicaid Asset Protection Law Firm of Evan H. Farr, P.C. website. Call 703-691-1888 in Fairfax, 540-479-1435 in Fredericksburg, or 202-587-2797 in Washington, DC, to make an appointment for a no-cost initial consultation.

 

 

 

 

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