In a study of the year 2008, the CDC recently estimated that every year about 234,000 people ages 15 and up are treated in the US for injuries that occur in bathrooms.
Four out of five of these injuries are caused by falls, which can have especially serious consequences for older adults. One in three adults aged 65 and up falls every year. Thirty percent of adults aged 65 and up who are injured in the bathroom are diagnosed with fractures; and among adults over age 85, thirty-eight percent have to be hospitalized as a result of their injuries.
The issue is even more staggering when you consider the average cost of a fall. In 2000, the total direct medical cost for hospitalizations from a fall injury was about $17,500.
Hip fractures, however, were the most common type of fall-related fracture and averaged $18,000 for hospital care, which does not include the aftercare that is often required. Add the fact that medical costs have risen since these last estimates, and the total cost of a fall-related injury may exceed $20,000.
How to prevent a fall
As the old saying goes, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” and that’s true when it comes to fall injuries among the elderly. Not only do those injuries require immediate medical attention and a frequent stay in the hospital, but physical and/or occupational therapy afterwards and sometimes assisted living measures.
Here are five tips to aid in fall prevention:
1. Keep moving
Exercise goes a long way toward preventing falls, especially gentle exercises with dance-like movements that promote better balance, coordination, and muscle tone. These exercises can include walking, dance, yoga, tai chi, and water workouts.
2. Wear the proper shoes
High heels, flip-flops, slippers, and even just socks increase the likelihood of a fall, especially on hardwood and tile surfaces. Lace-up or Velcro shoes with rubber soles with deep treads are the safest choice.
3. Keep living and work spaces brightly lit
This helps avoid accidental tripping on objects that might be hard to see. Night lights are also a great addition to a home.
4. Remove common hazards
Boxes, stacks of newspapers and magazines, exposed cords, loose rugs, worn patches of carpeting, tossed clothing, and furniture placed too near to high traffic areas all pose risks. Removing them really cuts down the odds of a fall.
5. Use assistive devices
Often, doctors will recommend a cane or walker to help with balance. In addition, handrails on both sides of the stairs, a raised toilet seat with arm rests, and grab bars for the tub or shower are all good ideas.
Prevention is really the key for cutting fall-related injuries, and obtaining clinical expertise along with patient educational resources are great ways to get started on the road to safety for the elderly.