Here’s a shocking statement put out by the CDC…
“Falls are the leading cause of injury and death in older Americans.”
Did that catch your attention?
If not, how about this one…
“Every second of every day in the United States an older adult falls…”
Did that do the trick?
There are lots more, but they amount to the same thing. Falls are a big problem, a huge problem, yet a problem that’s still underestimated.
There’s even a “Falls Prevention Awareness Day.” It’s sponsored by the National Council on Aging (NCOA), to bring attention to this staggering public health crisis. NCOA supports evidence-based programs for prevention of falls, as well as ideas to lessen the number of yearly deaths.
In 2014 alone, that number was 27,000.
These are not just numbers. Twenty-seven-thousand people lost their lives. Thousands of seniors didn’t make it that year to family holidays, social gatherings, anniversary parties, all because of a fall.
This is a tragedy.
THE TRUE COSTS OF FALLS
The CDC reports that falls are one of the 20 top most expensive medical conditions.
Factoring in all the costs due to falls, such as dependence on caregivers, time lost from work or chores, and the reduction in quality of life, simply isn’t possible. However, just a small slice of the total amount, just the direct medical costs for fall related injuries are estimable. They come in at a massive 31 billion dollars annually.
In most of the research, sarcopenia with its reduction in muscle mass, along with impaired strength, is one of the strongest predictors of falling. It also increases the risk of injury from these falls. From there, you then factor in the fear of falling, which leads to a reduction of activity, and an increase in sedentary behaviors. This then, leads to other complicated health problems like incontinence and pressure ulcers. The spiral keeps going down.
This is the wrong direction.
“PREVENTION IS BETTER THAN CURE” -Dutch Proverb
While these statistics are alarming, they’re made more so by the fact that so many are preventable with just what amounts to some extra attention and TLC.
Rates of injury and death while falling are a whopping 7 times higher for seniors with poor health over those with excellent health.
The Stopping Elderly Accidents, Deaths, and Injuries (STEADI) initiative, created by the CDC, seeks to aid healthcare providers to making fall prevention routine. Some are implementing the recommendations, some are too busy, and some don’t even know what they are.
This power of prevention often gets placed on senior living provider’s shoulders. Instead of shaking it off, it can be embraced. It’s a tremendous opportunity to use this power to radically change the community for the better. Happier, longer lives, is better for everyone.
FOUR STEPS TO PREVENT FALLS
STEP ONE: Assess the basics, right now.
- Do the menus include adequate vitamin D, or offer it as a supplement?
- Is the staff trained on asking residents if they themselves feel at risk of falling?
- Has the living center performed functional assessments of potential fall-risks?
- Is there positive motivation in place to increase physical activity and muscle strength?
STEP TWO: Eliminate fall risks, today.
- Smaller rugs– Get rid of them! Older adults can trip more easily on edges.
- Cords and wires– Remove! Keep all electrical wiring off the floor, especially in heavy traffic areas.
- Stairs- Light them up! Also, make sure handrails are in good repair and able to stabilize a senior if they slip.
- Floors, tubs, and showers– Skid-proof! There should be grab bars near toilets and tubs to help older adults stabilize.
- Stuff- Declutter! Objects left out or obstructing handrails are always potentials to make someone lose their balance. Keep facilities clean and clear.
STEP THREE: Exercise, right now.
It sounds like an overplayed rally cry. Everyone knows it makes us healthier, yet regular exercise seems to be more like a childhood wish for unicorns, then a regular part of the day, let alone a routine part of an older adult’s life.
This debilitating perception that exercise is too hard for seniors, is costing dollars, space, staff hours, and precious quality of life.
The CDC says that participation in evidence-based programs, like the foundation of all HUR equipment, Tai Chi, and others, is one of the most effective tools to fight against falls.
Exercise helps prevent falls.
It increases endurance, strengthens muscles, improves and/or maintains posture and balance. It activates cardiopulmonary activity and increases alertness. Weight bearing training also helps increase bone mass or prevent its loss.
These alone, are the strictly, fall-preventative advantages of exercise for seniors. The other benefits are too broad and numerous to mention for the focus of this article.
STEP FOUR: Gait and balance train, as soon as possible.
Abnormalities in walking and balance are associated with falls, but they can be improved upon with special exercises and rehabilitation. Focus on strength training of the specific impaired muscle groups, regular exercises to improve motor coordination and proprioceptive movements can greatly improve stability.
HOW HUR CAN HELP
HUR equipment is specially designed with senior challenges and skills as the foundation to all its machinery. Perhaps one of their most impressive designs is their revolutionary iBalance machine. It evaluates a user’s balance, then customizes an individual plan for improvement. This is The New Age of Balance.
As the iBalance does focus on a person’s balance, it is the perfect tool for reducing an individual’s risk of falling. The two assessments it administers, the Romberg’s test, and Limits of Stability test, provide a balance score which indicates user’s risk of falling. To help a senior train to reduce this risk, the iBalance then structures a fun and interactive individualized plan. Each engaging training activity is designed to increase strength, stability, and balance.
Designed for everyone, the iBalance caters to wheelchair users as well. They simply roll their wheelchair on to the platform and then participate in the same assessments and trainers. HUR focused the machinery structure of the iBalance to provide benefits for all seniors, from the very frail and wheelchair bound, to active older adults training for their next race.
The benefits of the iBalance are numerous and don’t stop there.
The various reports available can be used to compare past test results to see improvements, or to make modifications. These results can then be shared with care providers, physicians, and therapists. This information provides critical data to structure additional beneficial therapies. The individual gains by empowering them to better understand what steps to take to improve their score even more. After all, Balance is Independence.
WHEN BALANCE IS AGELESS…
Health and vitality aren’t defined by numbers. Senior living centers are increasingly becoming centers of holistic wellness, designed to improve the lives of their residents. With focused fall-preventative measures, and a robust proactive interest in maintaining quality of life and fitness, HUR can help directors and administrators lead the way in the New Age of Balance.
Keep residents walking tall and staying strong for many years to come.