According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, falls are the leading cause of injury and death in older adults. Falls can occur at any time and can range in severity.
Seniors and Medicare eligibles can suffer from significant injuries or pain. The average hospital cost for a fall injury can exceed $30,000. Fall prevention is important to help lower the risk of falling and potential injuries.
Preventing Falls at Home
According to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the majority of falls (60 percent!) occur in the home. Something as minor as a slippery spot on the floor or an electrical cord out of place can have devastating consequences.
Thankfully, there are several steps you can take to help reduce the risk of falling. The following are quick and easy suggestions that can give you a greater sense of security in your home:
If you have clutter in narrow or close areas, like hallways or staircases, you can easily trip or lose your balance. One of the easiest steps you can take is keeping your home clean and tidy by eliminating clutter and keeping your pathways clear.
Every room in your home should be free of tripping hazards. These hazards can include loose carpet, slippery rugs, damaged wood floorboards, etc. You should examine your home for these hazards and if you find one, remove or repair it. It is better to opt for carpet over hardwoods if possible.
Grab bars and handrails can help to lower your risk of falling, especially in the bathroom. Install handrails near the toilet and bathtub and in hallways and stairwells. If you are unable to install these yourself, contact a handyman or a family member.
Wear Properly Fitting Clothes
Everyone wants to be comfortable and able to relax in their home, but did you know that baggy clothes can make you more likely to fall? Wear clothes that are the proper length, and avoid wearing anything that drags on the floor.
Wear shoes or non-slip slippers when possible. Socks can be slippery and increase your risk of falling. Non-slip socks are great alternatives that help maintain comfort and lower your risk of falling.
It’s important that your home is well lit so you can see where you are walking. Install brighter light bulbs in dark, high-risk falling areas like hallways or stairwells. Plus, night-lights in bathrooms or hallways can help you see during any time of the night.
Preventing Falls in Hospitals
If you are in a hospital for any given reason, there is a risk of falling, especially if you are staying long-term. If you need to get up or go to the bathroom, use the call light or ask the nurse for help.
Some medicines can make you feel sleepy or dizzy, so when you are getting up, move slowly. Be sure to wear your glasses or hearing aids when you are up and moving around.
Plus, use a walker or cane because bedside tables, IV poles, and other objects cannot provide the proper support. Lastly, if you have any concerns about your safety, be sure to alert the nursing staff.
How Can Seniors Prevent Falls?
Exercising is a great way to increase your balance and help lower your risk of falling. These exercises can help strengthen your muscles, and when completed regularly, improve your muscles and joints. The following are great exercises that help prevent falls:
Chair Sit to Stand
Find a sturdy chair with arms. Practice getting in and out of the chair and focus on utilizing your leg muscles. Use the arms of the chair to help you get up, but as you improve, try using only one hand. Aim for 10 repetitions.
Marching in Place
Have a chair nearby in case you lose your balance. Practice marching in place, but bring your knees as high as you can. Use your muscles instead of your momentum. Aim for 10 knee raises on each leg.
Balance on One Leg
Find a sturdy surface like a chair or countertop. Use these surfaces for support. Raise one leg and try to find your balance while standing on the other. Aim for 10-15 seconds per leg.
Toe to Heel
Hold onto a chair or countertop. Raise up onto the balls of your feet and hold for a few seconds, then relax into a normal stance. Next, rock back on your heels and hold for a few seconds. Aim for ten repetitions.
Injuries and Complications
As we mentioned above, falls are the leading cause of injury and death in older adults. Did you know one out of five falls will result in a serious injury such as a broken bone or head injury?
These injuries can make living your day-to-day life difficult. Plus, if you have vitamin d deficiency or take certain medications like sedatives or antidepressants, your risk of falling increases. Common injuries from falling include:
- Head injuries
- Hip fractures
- Back and spinal injuries
- Shoulder injuries
- Torn ligaments, tendons, and muscles
- Neck injuries
What to Do If You Fall
In the unfortunate incident you do fall and you live alone, you may consider buying a medical alert system to contact emergency personnel. A medical alert system is a device that you wear that features a button you can push to call for help. The systems usually come with monthly fees, but Life Alert and other medical alert devices can help provide peace of mind.
You can also keep a cordless phone or smartphone with you at all times, so you can call for help if you fall.
Another option is wearing a smartwatch. According to NPR, the Apple Watch can detect when a user has fallen, and the device will generate a notification to emergency personnel. If you don’t respond for more than a minute after the alert, the watch can automatically call for help and send “a message with location to emergency contacts.”
Does Medicare Cover Fall Injuries?
Medicare generally covers most expenses if you have a fall. If you are admitted to a hospital from your injuries, Part A may cover this expense or any necessary treatments.
Your Part A deductible and coinsurance may apply after 60 days. If you go to an emergency room, doctor’s office, or clinic due to a fall, Part B generally covers these expenses. Similar to Part A, your deductible, coinsurance, or copay payment amounts may apply.
Fall prevention is one of many ways to remain proactive and practice a healthy lifestyle. Medicare Advantage plans can offer even more benefits and coverage that help you become the healthiest version of you. Many MA plans offer hearing, dental, and vision coverage, and some even offer group fitness classes like SilverSneakers®.
If you are interested in arranging a free, no-obligation appointment with a top agent, call us at 833-438-3676 or fill out this form.
*This post was originally published on November 13, 2018. Last Updated on October 18, 2019.