A fall often marks the beginning of an older adult's long-term care journey. How can falls be prevented? How are Life Care Planning Law Firms uniquely positioned to help minimize the collateral damage?
When an older adult falls, the episode often represents a devastating turning point in the person’s life. That’s why The National Council on Aging sponsors Falls Prevention Awareness Day on the first day of fall each year. The event raises awareness about the importance of preventing fall-related injuries among older adults.
How big is the problem? Consider these sobering statistics:
• One in four Americans age 65 and older fall each year.
• Falls are the leading cause of fatal injury and the most common cause of non-fatal trauma-related hospital admissions among older adults.
• More than 3 million older adults are treated in emergency rooms each year due to falls.
• More than 800,000 older adults are hospitalized each year due to injuries sustained in falls, and more than 27,000 die.
• Medicare & Medicaid pay 75% of the costs associated with treating injuries caused by falls.
• The financial toll for falls by older adults is expected to increase to $67.7 billion by 2020.
• 95% of hip fractures in older adults are caused by falls.
Whether injury-causing or simply embarrassing, falls can affect an older adult’s quality of life. Once an older person has fallen, it doubles the chances that he or she will fall again. Many older adults are so afraid of falling that they limit their activities and social interactions in order to reduce the risk. The resulting social isolation often hastens physical decline, magnifies depression, and stokes feelings of helplessness.
Dawn Houston, an Elder Care Coordinator at Hurley Elder Care Law, a Life Care Planning Law Firm in Atlanta, works with dozens of clients who are dealing with the aftermath of falls. Though the details always differ, the basic storylines are often identical. “The elder falls, breaks a hip, has surgery, and goes to a rehab facility,” Dawn explained. “When the family comes to our firm for help, I often meet the elder in the nursing home while he or she is still in rehab.”
Though working with a Life Care Planning Law Firm can help older adults and their family caregivers rebound faster after a fall, the real benefit is in prevention. If an older adult signs up for a Life Care Plan before a crisis occurs, the in-home safety assessment, care coordination, and patient education that are part of the Life Care Plan are often enough to prevent falls from happening. “We have two areas of focus in fall prevention,” said Dawn, a Registered Nurse who had 20 years of clinical experience before becoming an Elder Care Coordinator eleven years ago. “If a person is a fall risk, we make sure the living environment is hazard-free. We also recommend that the patient consult his or her doctor.”
If you’re concerned about falls, what can you do? Dawn offers these tips:
• Stay physically active.
• Have your eyes and hearing tested.
• Get enough sleep.
• Limit the amount of alcohol you drink.
• Stand up slowly.
• Use an assistive device, such as a cane or walker.
• Be careful when walking on wet or icy surfaces.
• Wear non-skid, rubber-soled, low-heeled, lace-up shoes.
• Avoid walking on stairs or floors while wearing socks.
• Make sure your home is well lit.
Another option is to enroll in an evidence-based fall prevention program. “These are proven to help older adults reduce their risk of falling,” added Dawn, who is certified to teach one of the most popular. “The National Council on Aging website lists more than a dozen.”