Did you know that falls are the single largest cause of death and injuries in older adults? Falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain, hip, shoulder, ankle and arm injury in the elderly. Believe me, I know about traumatic injury and it’s no fun. I’ve personally gone through the pain of back surgery and recovery. The older I get the more dramatic the pain. Luckily, I consider my health to be a #1 priority, so I take care of myself and have excellent physicians looking after me. This is frequently not the case with aging adults and so we must talk about it. Have you ever heard the phrase “prevention is the greatest medicine”?
We’ll talk about preventing falls in a minute, but first I think it’s important that we all understand the seriousness of the challenge. Are you ready for this? In 2015 the costs for falls to Medicare alone was $31 billion. Over 800,000 aging adults are hospitalized every year for injuries due to a fall. The average cost for treating an injury from a fall is $30K and this goes up with age. As daunting as these numbers are, they also don’t take into account pain and suffering and the psychological effects of a bad fall. Aging adults who have fallen, develop a fear of falling again. Often they stop their exercise routine as well as reduce their active lifestyle in other more social ways. Are you seeing the true picture?
This is why I am so passionate about working with the aging population. I’ve seen so many unforeseen yet painful consequences due to a general lake of knowledge and understanding. The frustrating thing it is not due to a lake of caring. Of course you care about your parents, aunts and uncles etc., but you don’t know what you don’t know. So now let’s dive into what you can do to help.
GENERAL MYTHS ABOUT THE FALL
- Men are more likely to suffer a fatal injury from a fall – Most people think this, because men are more active, but this is not true. It’s the opposite. Women are more likely to suffer a fatal injury from a fall.
- Expect a fall if you are elderly – No, no no! This one pisses me off. There are many gentle exercises you can do to soften your tendons, ligaments and muscles as well as fortify your bones such as Yoga or TaiChi. Don’t be a victim or let mom or dad be one either.
- Falls are unavoidable in the home – The CDC itself is on the case and has ever evolving systems for setting up a home to help prevent falls.
- Once someone has a bad fall they can no longer live alone – Absolutely not! Your parents may still want to live alone and maintain their dignity and with your help, many times they can.
FACTORS THAT LEAD TO FALLS
- Medical Conditions – If someone falls you first consider pre-existing medical factors. Did they get dizzy? Were they confused? Had they recently gone on new medication? These are all questions to ask. There may be other factors that medications mask. Go to mom or dad’s doctor and ask if they have any conditions that increase the risk of a fall.
- Environmental factors – A cluttered home can put someone in danger of a fall even if he or she is physically healthy. Leaks and water damage can cause a danger. Too much sunlight can cause an aging adult to become lightheaded increasing the risk of a fall. Anything stored in a high place that your loved one might need is a risk.
- Lighting – Many falls in the senior community are due to vision problems. Some of these risks can be reduced with good lighting that is working properly. Even if you have excellent vision, poor lighting can put you at risk for a fall. Ever try and navigate your home in the dark? You get it.
- Clothes and Shoes – Tight clothes can be a hazard for aging adults. They hold in heat and can restrict blood flow, both of which can lead to wooziness and a fall. Extremely loose clothing can be a challenge as well. It can get caught in doors, windows or furniture and cause a fall. When it comes to falls, shoes are certainly a culprit. They should never be too loose or have slippery soles. Also, they should address any problems an aging adult has with their feet. People in pain are at a higher risk for a fall.
IMMOBILITY AND INJURIES
This is a special category that requires special attention. An aging adult who have suffered injuries, particularly previous falls, is doubly at risk for a bad fall. Here are some specific factors to think about when you consider ways to reduce his or her risk of a terrible fall.
- Lower body weakness – If the core, back, hips or legs are weak or in pain, it will have an effect on a person’s balance. Symptoms of lower body weakness include a short or impaired gait, an inability to walk for extended periods of time, pain in the lower body when performing normal activities and imbalance with no provocation.
- Foot pain – Pain in the feet can come from any number of causes. Foot injuries that are not allowed to properly heal may affect your balance in numerous ways. If a person’s shoes are in any way uncomfortable, consider changing them as a priority within a fall prevention plan.
- Vision disorders – Any eye injury or visual impairment can increase a person’s risk of falling. People with impaired vision may misinterpret a hazard or not see it altogether.
- Ear disorders – The ears are essential to maintaining proper balance, and proper balance is essential to reducing the risk of falling. Elder adults should have their hearing checked as often as their eyes.
As you can probably tell, there is just too much information for a single blog. I truly hope you can benefit from my personal experiences working with the aging adult community. Stay tuned for next week’s blog where we’ll talk about ways to actively reduce the chance of a fall.
Now, if you are a Real Estate professional in this space or you’d just like to work with the above 50 market in any capacity, I’ve got great news. I will be teaching a Senior Real Estate Specialist designation course coming in January 2018 so save the date and reach out to me at [email protected] for updates.