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Important Facts about Falls

Each year, millions of older people—those 65 and older—fall. In fact, one out of three older people falls each year, but less than half tell their doctor. Falling once doubles your chances of falling again.

Falls Are Serious and Costly

  • One out of five falls causes a serious injury such as broken bones or a head injury.1,2
  • Each year, 2.5 million older people are treated in emergency departments for fall injuries.3
  • Over 700,000 patients a year are hospitalized because of a fall injury, most often because of a head injury or hip fracture.3
  • Each year at least 250,000 older people are hospitalized for hip fractures.5
  • More than 95% of hip fractures are caused by falling,6 usually by falling sideways.7
  • Falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries (TBI).8
  • Adjusted for inflation, the direct medical costs for fall injuries are $34 billion annually.8 Hospital costs account for two-thirds of the total.

What Can Happen After a Fall?

Many falls do not cause injuries. But one out of five falls does cause a serious injury such as a broken bone or a head injury.1,2 These injuries can make it hard for a person to get around, do everyday activities, or live on their own.

  • Falls can cause broken bones, like wrist, arm, ankle, and hip fractures.
  • Falls can cause head injuries. These can be very serious, especially if the person is taking certain medicines (like blood thinners). An older person who falls and hits their head should see their doctor right away to make sure they don’t have a brain injury.
  • Many people who fall, even if they’re not injured, become afraid of falling. This fear may cause a person to cut down on their everyday activities. When a person is less active, they become weaker and this increases their chances of falling.9

What Conditions Make You More Likely to Fall?

Research has identified many conditions that contribute to falling. These are called risk factors. Many risk factors can be changed or modified to help prevent falls. They include:

  • Lower body weakness
  • Vitamin D deficiency (that is, not enough vitamin D in your system)
  • Difficulties with walking and balance
  • Use of medicines, such as tranquilizers, sedatives, or antidepressants. Even some over-the-counter medicines can affect balance and how steady you are on your feet.
  • Vision problems
  • Foot pain or poor footwear
  • Home hazards or dangers such as
    • broken or uneven steps,
    • throw rugs or clutter that can be tripped over, and
    • no handrails along stairs or in the bathroom.

Most falls are caused by a combination of risk factors. The more risk factors a person has, the greater their chances of falling.

Healthcare providers can help cut down a person’s risk by reducing the fall risk factors listed above.

What You Can Do to Prevent Falls

Falls can be prevented. These are some simple things you can do to keep yourself from falling.

Talk to Your Doctor

  • Ask your doctor or healthcare provider to evaluate your risk for falling and talk with them about specific things you can do.
  • Ask your doctor or pharmacist to review your medicines to see if any might make you dizzy or sleepy. This should include prescription medicines and over-the counter medicines.
  • Ask your doctor or healthcare provider about taking vitamin D supplements with calcium.

Do Strength and Balance Exercises

Do exercises that make your legs stronger and improve your balance. Tai Chi is a good example of this kind of exercise.

Have Your Eyes Checked

Have your eyes checked by an eye doctor at least once a year, and be sure to update your eyeglasses if needed.

It you have bifocal or progressive lenses, you may want to get a pair of glasses with only your distance prescription for outdoor activities, such as walking. Sometimes these types of lenses can make things seem closer or farther away than they really are.

Make Your Home Safer

  • Get rid of things you could trip over.
  • Add grab bars inside and outside your tub or shower and next to the toilet.
  • Put railings on both sides of stairs.
  • Make sure your home has lots of light by adding more or brighter light bulbs.
References
  1. Alexander BH, Rivara FP, Wolf ME. The cost and frequency of hospitalization for fall–related injuries in older adults. American Journal of Public Health 1992;82(7):1020–3.
  2. Sterling DA, O’Connor JA, Bonadies J. Geriatric falls: injury severity is high and disproportionate to mechanism. Journal of Trauma–Injury, Infection and Critical Care 2001;50(1):116–9
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. Web–based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS) [online]. Accessed August 15, 2013.
  4. National Hospital Discharge Survey (NHDS), National Center for Health Statistics. Health Data Interactive, Health Care Use and Expenditures. www.cdc.gov/nchs/hdi.htm. Accessed 21 December 2012.
  5. Parkkari J, Kannus P, Palvanen M, Natri A, Vainio J, Aho H, Vuori I, Järvinen M. Majority of hip fractures occur as a result of a fall and impact on the greater trochanter of the femur: a prospective controlled hip fracture study with 206 consecutive patients. Calcif Tissue Int, 1999;65:183–7.
  6. Hayes WC, Myers ER, Morris JN, Gerhart TN, Yett HS, Lipsitz LA. Impact near the hip dominates fracture risk in elderly nursing home residents who fall. Calcif Tissue Int 1993;52:192-198.
  7. Jager TE, Weiss HB, Coben JH, Pepe PE. Traumatic brain injuries evaluated in U.S. emergency departments, 1992–1994. Academic Emergency Medicine 2000&359;7(2):134–40.
  8. Stevens JA, Corso PS, Finkelstein EA, Miller TR. The costs of fatal and nonfatal falls among older adults. Injury Prevention 2006;12:290–5.
  9. Vellas BJ, Wayne SJ, Romero LJ, Baumgartner RN, Garry PJ. Fear of falling and restriction of mobility in elderly fallers. Age and Ageing 1997;26:189–193.

 

In Seniors, ‘Fear of Falling’ Risky in Itself

Regardless of actual risk, the anxiety made them more likely to tumble, study shows...

FRIDAY, Aug. 20 (HealthDay News) — Older people who have a fear of falling are at increased risk for future falls, regardless of their actual risk of tumbling, a new study finds.

The report, published online Aug. 20 in the BMJ, suggests that fall risk assessments should include measures of both actual and perceived fall risk for prevention purposes, according to the Australian and Belgian researchers.

The study included 500 people in Sydney, aged 70 to 90, who underwent extensive medical and neuropsychological assessments. The researchers estimated the participants’ actual and perceived fall risks and followed-up on them monthly for one year.

Both actual and perceived fall risk contribute independently to a person’s future risk of falling, the study authors concluded. People with a high level of anxiety about falling are most likely to suffer a fall.

 Although most people had an accurate perception of their fall risk, about one-third of the elders either underestimated or overestimated their risk of falling, according to senior principal research fellow Stephen Lord, of the Falls and Balance Research Group, Prince of Wales Medical Research Institute at the University of New South Wales, and colleagues.

The “anxious” group, for example, had a low actual fall risk but viewed it as high — something the researchers attributed to neurotic personality traits, symptoms of depression and poor physical functioning. The “stoic” group, on the other hand, had a high actual fall risk but viewed it as low, an attitude that the researchers associated with physical activity, a positive outlook on life and community participation. The perception of a low fall risk actually helped protect the stoic group against falls, the investigators found.

Working with elderly people to reduce their fear of falling isn’t likely to increase the risk of falls by making seniors overly confident, Lord and colleagues noted.

More information

The U.S. National Institute on Aging has more about seniors and falls.

Copyright © 2011 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

Do You Need Help with Prescriptions and Medicare Costs?

AGING WELL IN CENTRAL TEXAS

Weekly information brought to you by the Area Agency on Aging of Central Texas (AAACT). The AAACT is a partner agency of the Central Texas Aging & Disability Resource Center (ADRC) and a program of the Central Texas Council of Governments. The AAACT is funded in part by the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services.

Do you want help paying for your prescriptions and Medicare costs?

Extra Help is a federal program available for those on Medicare who have difficulty paying their prescription drug costs.

Medicare beneficiaries who have difficulty paying their health care costs may qualify for a Medicare Savings Program (QMB, SLMB, or QI).

Eligibility for both programs is based on income and resources.

To determine if you are eligible for Extra Help or the Medicare Savings Program and for help with the application process, please contact the Area Agency on Aging of Central Texas.

For more information, please contact the Area Agency on Aging of Central Texas, your designated State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP), at 254.770.2330 or 1.800.447.7169

The AAACT welcomes you to visit its website at www.centexaaa.com

The AAACT is a program of the Central Texas Council of Governments and is funded in part by the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services.

Rosalynn Carter Leadership Award

Named in honor of a great humanitarian, the Rosalynn Carter Leadership in Caregiving Award is the highest award given in the caregiving field. The Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregiving (RCI) is proud to announce that the winner of the 2009 Rosalynn Carter Leadership in Caregiving Award is the partnership between the Central Texas Area Agency on Aging and Scott & White Memorial Hospital’s Program on Aging and Care.

The Rosalynn Carter Leadership in Caregiving Award recognizes innovative partnerships between community agencies and caregiving researchers that bridge the gap between science and practice. These partnerships help move effective programs to widespread use in the community more quickly and efficiently.

The community partnership between the Central Texas AAA and Scott & White first came to the attention of the RCI during a site visit in 2006. Working collaboratively, volunteers in Central Texas were being trained to deliver components of the evidence-based REACH II intervention to , using the Support Team Network model. Building upon that initial collaborative effort, these partners have mobilized their combined strengths to offer a seamless array of services to caregivers. Referrals for services come through a variety of sources, including floor nurses at Scott & White Memorial Hospital using a special prompt that identifies caregivers, an on-site interventionist co-located in the hospital, as well as AAA and Aging & Disability Resource Center staff. This allows caregivers to be more easily identified, assessed and referred to services determined by their current level of risk. State of the art ServicePoint software enables program staff at all locations to make instant referrals for services to assist caregivers. Evidence-based programs currently offered to families are: Chronic Illness Self-Management, Matter of Balance Fall Prevention, Central Texas Support Teams, REACH II, Savvy Caregiver, and Care Transitions. By leveraging funding from a variety of sources, other programs are also now being implemented: The Community Living Program and the Veteran’s Directed Home & Community Based Services Program. On the horizon are the Medication Management Improvement System and Healthy Ideas.

The Rosalynn Carter Leadership in Caregiving Award is sponsored by Johnson & Johnson, RCI’s partner since 2001. This partnership builds on the significant work accomplished by the RCI over the past 22 years as well as on the credo of Johnson & Johnson to be “responsible to the communities in which we live and work”,and to “encourage better health and education.”

Aging Well in Central Texas

AGING WELL IN CENTRAL TEXAS

Weekly information brought to you by the Area Agency on Aging of Central Texas (AAACT). The AAACT is a partner agency of the Central Texas Aging & Disability Resource Center (ADRC) and a program of the Central Texas Council of Governments. The AAACT is funded in part by the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services.

Annual Enrollment Starts October 15 and Ends December 7

For Medicare Part C and Part D Plans

Fall is the time for Medicare beneficiaries to explore their options regarding Part D prescription drug and Part C Medicare Advantage plans. In years past, the annual enrollment period began in mid-November and lasted to the end of the year, with any changes or choices made effective January 1st. Starting this year, that time period has been moved up. This year the Annual Coordinated Election Period (ACEP) for Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D prescription drug plans will start on October 15th and end on December 7th. This means Medicare beneficiaries will have to analyze their options and make choices earlier than in previous years.

During the ACEP, often referred to as “open enrollment”, Medicare beneficiaries who do not have a Part D plan can enroll in one and those who do have Part D coverage can change plans. Beneficiaries can also return to traditional Medicare from a Medicare Advantage (MA) plan, enroll in a MA plan or change MA plans.

Beneficiaries who are satisfied with their plan in 2011 still need to review their plan options for 2012. Part D and MA plans may have made changes to their coverage, provider networks and other plan features. Starting October 1, 2011, plan information for 2012 will be available on the Medicare Plan Finder at www.medicare.gov. Medicare Advantage and Part D plan sponsors are allowed to start marketing their plans on October 1st.     Source: The Center for Medicare Advocacy

Extra Help for Prescription Drugs

Extra Help is a federal program that can help you pay for some or most of the costs of Medicare prescription drug coverage if your income and assets are below a certain level. To be sure you get all the benefits you qualify for, contact the Area Agency on Aging of Central Texas, your local State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP), at 1.880.447.7169.

Medicare Open Enrollment

AGING WELL IN CENTRAL TEXAS

Weekly information brought to you by the Area Agency on Aging of Central Texas (AAACT). The AAACT is a partner agency of the Central Texas Aging & Disability Resource Center (ADRC) and a program of the Central Texas Council of Governments. The AAACT is funded in part by the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services.

Medicare Open Enrollment is October 15 – December 7

It’s Earlier Now

Your health needs change from year to year. And, your health plan may change the benefits and costs each year too. That’s why it’s important to evaluate your Medicare choices every year. Open enrollment is the one time of year when ALL people with Medicare can see what new benefits Medicare has to offer and make changes to their coverage.

There’s never been a better time to check out Medicare coverage. There are new benefits available for all people with Medicare – whether you choose Original Medicare or a Medicare Advantage plan – including lower prescription costs, wellness visits, and preventive care. Take advantage of Open Enrollment and you may be able to save money, get better coverage, or both.

What is the benefit of having an earlier enrollment period?

Starting this year, Open Enrollment starts earlier – on October 15th – and lasts longer (7 full weeks) to give YOU enough time to review and make changes to your coverage. But, also starting this year, you will need to make your final selection for next year’s Medicare coverage by December 7th. This change ensures Medicare has enough time to process your choice, so your coverage can begin without interruption on January 1.

It’s worth it to take the time to review and compare, but you don’t have to do it alone. If you typically use the December holidays to discuss health care options with family or friends, plan now to move that conversation earlier. And remember that Medicare is available to help.

  • Visit www.medicare.gov/find-a-plan to compare your current coverage with all of the options that are available in your area, and enroll in a new plan if you decide to make a change.
  • Call 1.800.MEDICARE (1.800.633.4227) 24-hours a day/7 days a week to find out more about your coverage options. TTY users should call 1.877.486.2048.
  • Review the Medicare & You 2012 handbook. It is mailed to people with Medicare in September.
  • Receive one-on-one help from your State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) by calling 1.800.447.7169. The Area Agency on Aging of Central Texas is the designated SHIP for the Central Texas Counties of Bell, Coryell, Hamilton, Lampasas, Milam, Mills and San Saba.  SOURCE: U.S. Department of Health & Human Services