September 22, 2018 is Falls Prevention Awareness Day. Each year, on the first day of fall, senior services agencies across the country take the opportunity to raise awareness of a major public health challenge.
Falls are a serious issue for seniors. The American Geriatrics Society estimates that fall injuries are responsible for medical costs of up to $50 billion annually. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that these injuries claim the lives of almost 30,000 older adults each year. Experts project that as more and more seniors live to age 85 and beyond, this number will double by the year 2030.
This steep increase is a downside of the longevity trend. Serious falls are most common among seniors older than 85, and today’s reduced death rate from heart disease, cancer and stroke mean more of us will live to that advanced age. If your loved one is one of these elders, you might be losing sleep worrying if they are safe at home.
When families think about the fall risk of a senior loved one, they might not take into account a side effect of falls: the fear of falling. Seniors who have experienced a serious fall, or who have been told they are at risk of fall injury due to osteoporosis, arthritis or vision loss, might decide that it’s best to avoid physical activity. They take to the couch, only to quickly spiral downward into a loss of muscle strength and reduced cardiovascular health.
Sometimes families share culpability in this cycle! If you are serving as a family caregiver for a frail elder, you may get a little nervous when they’re out for a walk or heading up the stairs. You’re tempted to say, “Just stay put, Mom, I’ll get it” if they need something.
But it’s important to help seniors overcome the fear of falling—and overcoming your own anxiety about it is a step in the right direction. This is where a trained, professional Potomac home caregiver can be a big help. If you are worrying about a loved one falling, it’s good to know that home care can reduce the risk in several important ways: