Lynn Ross our Geriatric Care Coordinator is an invaluable asset to our clients and their families! Lynn often speaks to the dangers of falls and she knows her stuff after 10-plus years at the Emory Brain Health and Movement Disorders Center. Words of wisdom from Lynn…
Which do you think costs more…practicing good fall prevention measures and not taking a tumble or ignoring what is going on and ending up in the emergency room? Most people we ask this question readily answer “a trip to the ER.” And they are right.
So, why is it so many people opt not to be proactive in fall prevention? The reasons are many and varied. “It won’t happen to me.” “I’m always careful. “Canes and walkers make you look old.” “I am not even a fall risk!” Do any of these sound familiar? Resistance is universal…and admitting one is a fall risk acknowledges decreasing independence.
According to the CDC, millions of older people—those 65 and over—fall each year:
- One out of five falls causes a severe injury such as broken bones or a head injury
- Emergency departments treat three million older adults for fall injuries every year
- Over 800,000 patients a year are hospitalized because of a fall injury, most often because of a head injury or hip fracture
- In Georgia, statistics from 2007 – 2016 showed that there were between 59 to 68 deaths/100,000 from falls
- Falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries (TBI)
- In 2015, the total medical costs for falls totaled more than $50 billion; Medicare and Medicaid shared more than 75% of these charges
Do I have your attention? The truth is, avoiding falls is not expensive and need not be the beginning of the end. Consider the following:
- Ask your doctor to review all your medications to make sure none might interact and create dizziness; this INCLUDES over the counter drugs as well
- Engage an occupational therapist (OT) and have them assess your environment for risks. Tell them what you have trouble doing and what you want to do safely; many will do this for a flat fee and leave you with all their recommendations
Actually make modifications to your space per the OT’s suggestions. These may include removing throw rugs and tables and installing handrails and grab bars. Also, it is crucial to wear proper footwear and use a cane or walker as directed (better to be safe than sorry!)
- Get physical therapy! Strengthening vital muscles can make mobility MUCH easier and increase stability.
An ounce of prevention equals a pound of cure. In this case, an ounce of prevention equals 10,000 pounds of treatment, a ton of money, and, most importantly, the anguish of a bad fall!
So, it is actually (almost always) much less expensive to prevent a fall than to be treated for one. There is an enormous physical and emotional toll on the person taking the fall, but also on their loved ones. It may be inconvenient to use that walker or embarrassing to install grab bars. Still, it is better than ending up in the hospital and fielding never-ending bills and possibly face the prospect of never getting home again. I think so… Lynn