Each year as the weather turns icy, we return to one major health topic for older adults, avoiding a fall. How big is the risk actually, though?
Truth in Numbers
No matter how healthy you are, falling is a real risk. About 1 out of 3 adults age 65 or older falls each year, but less than half of those talk to their doctors about it.
Sure, you might think, but everyone falls once in a while, right? Kids fall all the time! But your mom falling could be a lot more serious than your toddler. Falls are the leading cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries in older adults.
In 2013, 2.5 million people were treated for nonfatal falls, and 734,000 of those had to be hospitalized. And in 2012, the medical costs from falls reached $30 billion.
They cause the most broken bones, traumatic brain injuries, and over 95% of hip fractures in older adults. And women are twice as likely as men to break a bone.
What Causes A Fall
Icy and slippery weather is of course a big reason that falls happen, but winter isn’t the only time to protect yourself and your loved ones.
Seeing is an essential part of most of our days, but as you age and your vision gets worse, it can increase your risk of falling. If you can’t see the danger, it’s harder to avoid it.
Some medications, both prescription and over-the-counter can cause side effects, like dizziness and drowsiness, that can make it more likely you’ll take a tumble.
Dangers in your homes, like tripping hazards, stairs, and slippery bathtubs, are a huge risk.
And many people who fall once are afraid of falling again and what could happen if they do. This leads them to limit their activities, lowering their mobility and fitness, which can actually increase their chances of falling and of getting hurt.
A recent study also found that many people’s falls are because of an infection, which can cause low blood pressure, which can make you feel dizzy or lightheaded. This can both lead to your fall, or make you confused about what happened afterwards.
There are ways to help stop falls before they happen:
Get your eyes checked each year, and always keep your glasses prescription as up to date as possible.
Ask your doctor to review all your meds, and see if there are other options for any drugs that might be increasing your risk of falling.
Fall-proof your home. Adding grab bars in the bathroom and railings to stairs and even improving the lighting in your home can make a huge difference.
Get enough calcium and Vitamin D from foods like dairy, soy milk, orange juice, and salmon, or take a regular supplement.
Get tested for osteoporosis.
Remove clutter. A messy house can actually increase your chance of falling at home. Learn more.
Get active! There are great options and resources for getting healthy at any age.
- Tai Chi is especially helpful for improving your balance and leg strength. Use this Tai Chi Fall Prevention Toolkit to get started now.
- Try walking outside with friends or family.
- Weight bearing exercises can lower your chance of hip fractures.
- Water aerobics is a great way to move without stressing your joints.
- Moving to the beat and changing to a rhythm are shown to reduce falls. Get dancing at your local senior center’s events, take lessons, or just let loose at home.
- We want to help, too. Our Medicare members have perks to help you get fit at a gym of your choice. Our members also get discounts at certain fitness locations.
All statistics are from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Did you ever notice how much stuff you have packed in your house? It seems to have a life of its own! There was a point where I thought, “If I bring one more thing home, something will pop out of an upstairs window.” The thought of moving with all these treasures in tow is daunting. Imagine if you had to do so without notice or against your wishes. That would be a nightmare.
Sadly, some of our older friends and family members find themselves in that situation. They need to transition suddenly from independent living to a group or assisted-living facility, whether the move is short-term or permanent.
It seems talking about this tough situation ahead of time could save a lot of pain later.
There are some early signs that it is time to talk about moving options. Trouble getting dressed or not being able to make food are a couple of warnings that a change is in order. Sudden changes in behavior or severe forgetfulness are more alarming, and require fast action to protect your loved one.
Rosanna McLain is the director of the Senior Resource Center at Family Services of Champaign County. She advises, “Get your family member to his or her doctor so the cause of the changes can be determined, and then develop a plan of action. It’s best to talk about their wishes before the need is there.
“It’s tough to bring up sometimes, but our family members should be the drivers of their lives and make their wishes known ahead of time. Remember, you can find caregiver support programs at local senior centers and Area Agencies on Aging. Experienced specialists can help guide you through difficult times like these, so give them a call.”
There you have it. It wouldn’t hurt for all of us to plan for the future. Simplifying our lives and possessions as we go along is probably the best plan. I intend to clean out the junk room this spring. Of course I’ve had the same plan for the last three springs. Wish me luck tackling those treasures.
What Is Hoarding?
Lately, it seems like almost every cable TV channel has a show about hoarding and people who live in less-than-great conditions because they can’t let go of anything, even trash.
While these people represent extreme cases, even mild hoarding can be a problem. As we get older, we tend to hang onto things. This often creates dangerous living areas, especially for seniors who have issues with balance and falling.
Clutter can also lead to other problems. It makes it harder to keep track of things you need like bills, meds, keys, and contact info for your friends and loved ones.
People with hoarding disorders usually save things because they believe these things will be needed in the future, they have emotional significance, and because having these things makes them feel safer and more secure. Because of this, it’s very different than collecting, when people careful find and display special items, like stamps or model cars.
Hoarding animals is one of the most dangerous forms of hoarding. Pets in these situations often aren’t cared for properly, which is dangerous for them and for you because of the unsanitary conditions this can lead to.
Signs of Hoarding
- Cluttered living spaces, especially when it stops you from being able to use rooms for their intended purposes, like not being able to cook in the kitchen.
- Extreme attachment to unimportant objects.
- Letting trash build up to an unhealthy level.
- Keeping stacks of newspapers and junk mail, or collecting lots of useless items.
- Moving items from one pile to another without ever throwing anything away.
- Trouble making decisions about and organizing your stuff.
- Having a hard time letting others touch or borrow your things.
- Embarrassment over your home.
- Limited social interactions.
But hoarding is a treatable mental illness. Therapy where you talk with a doctor and certain drugs, usually ones used for depression, can help. Sticking to a treatment plan made with your doctor and support groups can also help you avoid hoarding.
You can also get help cleaning out your home with organizers, local assistance, or your friends and family. And you may find you have a lot of great things that you could donate to make someone else’s life better.
If hoarding affects you or someone you love, talk to your doctor as soon as possible. They can help you find a therapist who can work with you to make a treatment plan and recommend resources to help you clean up the clutter.