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What is the leading cause of injury for older people?
Think about this question for a moment — what would you guess?
To give you a few hints, this type of injury happens to 1 in 3 of people over the age of 65.
Of those, a third require medical attention. Sadly, each year 11,000 older people die from this cause. It costs a staggering $20 billion annually in direct medical costs, which is more than the annual budget for the Federal Department of Homeland Security. By the year 2020, the cost is estimated rise as high as $54.9 billion.What is this cause of the injury? Falls.
Falls are the leading cause of both fatal and nonfatal injuries among older folks. All it takes is a slip on a patch of ice, a stumble on the stairs or a brief loss of balance to cause tremendous pain or even death. Former first lady Nancy Reagan, now 87, fell recently at her home and was hospitalized for a fractured pelvis and sacrum.
Half of the 11,000 deaths mentioned above were caused by traumatic brain injury, which can occur when victims hit their heads during the fall. Sometimes the symptoms of brain injury mimic dementia. Serious complications can result from a misdiagnosis.
Prevention starts with you. Here are several things you can do to reduce your risk:
• Exercise to maintain strength, balance and flexibility
• Clear pathways in your home or work place
• Secure throw rugs and electrical cords
• Make sure stairways are safe and have adequate lighting and handrails
• Add lighting fixtures to brighten your home
• Install grab rails and non-skid mats in the bathroom
• Use non-skid cleaning products on your floors
• Store items within easy reach
• Wear shoes with good traction
• Take it slow when moving from sitting to standing positions
Partner with your physician to have eyes testing yearly, hearing tested every two years, and let your doctor know if you feel dizzy or light headed
If you want to learn more, go to aarp.org and enter “prevent falls” in the search line.