Balance and fall prevention

One in three Americans 65 and over fall each year. Every 13 seconds, an older adult is treated in the emergency room for a fall and every 20 minutes, an older adult dies from a fall. Falls are the leading cause of hospitalization and injury-related death in persons 75 and older.

In 2013, the total cost of fall injuries was $34 billion, with 78% paid by Medicare. By 2020, it’s estimated this will rise to $68 billion. Falls in adults aged 65+ are the leading cause of head injuries and broken hips, both with long recovery times.

Even if a fall is without injury, it can lead to fear of falling, social isolation and depression. Frequently, a fall with an injury, such as a broken hip, is the precipitating factor in a senior not being able to live at home.

To prevent falls, the first step is get assessed by your doctor. Your physician has useful tools like the Tinetti Balance and Gait Evaluation to evaluate risk of falling. Depending upon balance issues, your doctor might prescribe physical therapy to help strengthen muscles or correct a gait problem. Be sure to ask your doctor if medications or dosages could be causing an unsteady gait as there are some classes of drugs that are related to falls.

One of the best ways to prevent falls is to engage in exercise to build muscles. Check with your local senior center to see if they have a fall prevention exercise program, like Tai Chi, focused on balance and are low impact.

Ask a trusted friend or loved one for a home hazard assessment. Something as simple as a throw rug or low lighting near a stair can cause a fall.

Finally, Central Valley Medical Group participates each year as a sponsor with the Healthy Aging Association Healthy Aging & Fall Prevention Summit held each autumn. CVMG also one of the sponsors of the Healthy Aging Association “Young at Heart” exercise program and walking group. For more information, call (209) 573-7401 or visit CVMGsenior.com.

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