Senior Falls Are Dangerous and Costly, But They’re Also Preventable
Prevention & Treatment Millions of older people fall every year. But they don’t have to. With small and simple changes made throughout one’s home, so many of them are preventable.
5 Facts About Fragility Fractures
1. They’re a warning sign
Fragility fractures result from a fall from a standing height or less, or a break that occurs with little to no obvious trauma. These low-energy fractures are often the “sentinel event” a patient experiences indicating the first sign of poor bone health and osteoporosis.
2. They’re surprisingly common
At over 2 million fragility fractures each year in the United States, more older adults are affected by fragility fractures than heart attacks, strokes and breast cancer combined. Statistically, 1 in 2 women and up to 1 in 4 men over age 50 will break a bone due to osteoporosis in their lifetime.
3. They’re more dangerous than you think
Fragility fractures can significantly affect the quality of life and can even be deadly; as high as 1 in 4 people who sustain a hip fracture die within 1 year. Others experience loss of independence and 1 in 5 may require long-term nursing home care, yet 65-80 percent of fracture patients do not receive recommended osteoporosis care following a fragility fracture. Adequate care of patients with fragility fractures can reduce the risk of future fractures by up to 50 percent.
4. Diet makes a difference
Lifestyle changes including a healthy diet with calcium and vitamin D, weight bearing and muscle strengthening exercises, practicing fall prevention and avoiding smoking and high alcohol consumption can help slow the loss of bone mass and help prevent fractures.
5. Your doctor can help with prevention
Your healthcare professional can educate you on the appropriate intake of Calcium and Vitamin D, as well as evaluate your bone mass with a bone mineral density test (BMD) as necessary, When appropriately indicted your healthcare professional can prescribe medicines to help reduce bone loss, or grow new bone, and ultimately reduce your fracture risk.
Source: Kyle J. Jeray, M.D., FAOA, Orthopedic Surgery, Greenville Health System, Chair, ”Own the Bone” Steering Committee
What would you say if you found out $31 billion is spent on direct medical costs for injuries associated with falls? And consider the fact that every year, 2.8 million people over the age of 65 are treated in emergency departments, but this is less than 50 percent of those who actually seek medical care as a result of their fall. You do the math. The numbers are astounding.
According to Kathleen Cameron, senior director of the Center for Healthy Aging at the National Council on Aging, “The most common reasons [for falls] include chronic conditions, medications, blood pressure, decrease in muscle strength and balance, and home environment.”
Prevention is the best medicine
There are a few things seniors, people with elderly parents, or caregivers can do to help prevent falls. First, fall-proof the home. Add nightlights in the bedroom and the hallway leading to the bathroom. Installing grab-bars near the toilet and bathtub and placing a non-slip mat in the tub. You can even use a chair in the tub or shower to help with balance. And improving stairways.
Speak to your doctor or pharmacist and let them know about all the medications you are taking to ensure there are no possible drug interactions and to understand the possible side effects.
Get your blood pressure checked since this can lead to dizziness. Or if you’re on blood pressure medication, make sure your condition is stable. Keep in mind that physical activity is vital to maintaining muscle strength and balance.
Broken bones and long-term issues
Of the millions of falls each year, 20 percent result in broken bones on head injury. With age, broken bones can have more serious repercussions than when we were younger. Debbie Zeldow, acting executive director of the National Bone Health Alliance, says, “Fractures later in life can result in loss of independence, severe disability and even loss of life. In fact, one in five older Americans who suffer from a hip fracture will die within the next year and 40 percent or more will lose their independence, requiring long-term extended care.”
And remember when we said 2.8 million older people are treated in the emergency room for falls each year? Well 300,000 of those patients are admitted to the hospital for hip fractures.
Breaking bones, especially with seniors, can also be a sign of osteoporosis. Unfortunately, only about 20 percent of patients with fractures are actually tested for osteoporosis. Zeldow adds that “about half of those who do will later break another bone.”
Spreading the word
For the past 10 years, the National Council on Aging in conjunction with state and local partners, national organizations, federal agencies, and coalitions, organizes a Falls Prevention Awareness Day on the first day of fall each year — this year it will be on September 22, 2017. The organizations at a local level plan events to educate and bring attention to this issue.