Your Health: Decreasing your risk of falling

Health Reports

Every 20 minutes an older adult dies from injuries sustained from a fall. In fact falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injury and fracture for seniors.

The annual medical cost of treating people who fall is an estimated 30 billion dollars and that number is expected to rise as the population ages.

But there are things you can do to decrease your risk of falling.

“I was walking from the living room to my bedroom and I fell. I laid in the yard for about two and a half hours before the next door neighbor saw me laying there,” said Sarah Grant, Patient.

“I had fallen so often and I was on a first name basis with the firefighters,” said Patricia Bersche, Patient.

Sarah and Patricia laugh about it now, but falls are frightening and common for older adults.

In fact older adults without any risk factors have a 25 to 33% chance of falling.

If you have four or more risk factors, you have an 80% chance of falling.

Occupational Therapist Susan Stark spearheaded a study to see if in-home behavioral intervention changed the odds of falling.

“It can be things like adding a grab rail or changing the way you do something like turning on a light before you walk down the stairs,” said Susan Stark, PHD, Occupational Therapist, Washington University.

Emily Somerville visited Sarah three times. She witnessed firsthand what Sarah was doing that put her in harms way.

“So we added this grab bar here for these two steps as she comes down or up the stairs down here,” said Emily Somerville, OTD, OTR, Washington University.

Other simple but effective solutions include adding a grab bar for getting in and out of the shower and on and off the toilet.

A tub bench can also help get in and out safely. Stark’s study saw a 40% reduction in falls.

“So we didn’t only reduce falls, we actually reduced overall healthcare costs,” said Dr. Stark.

The study found they were saving over two dollars on medical care for every dollar spent in prevention.

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