Slips and falls can be deadly for elderly — NJ doc on how to prevent them
When your elderly parent takes a fall outdoors or in the home, it can be life-altering or even deadly.
Statistically — yes, this is something that's actually tracked — New Jersey does better than most other states when it comes to falls among the 65-plus age group. But medical professionals want to bring the rate even lower.
"A lot of times you see a direct blow to the hip or the head," said Dr. Steven Angelo, of UnitedHealthcare Medicare & Retirement of New Jersey.
Angelo said the dangers associated with a fall at an older age are "underappreciated" and "under the radar" in the Garden State and countrywide.
"Obviously you can die after a fall," he said. "But if you don't die, you can have a serious injury, such as a hip fracture or a traumatic brain injury."
Even the most high-functioning older individuals, Angelo added, can be sent on a downward spiral with one slip. Contributing factors include poor balance, poor vision, physical inactivity, certain medications, and general frailty.
In its 2021 Senior Report, United Health Foundation found 21.2% of adults age 65-plus reporting a fall in the past 12 months in New Jersey. That's the second-best rate in the nation.
Reduce the threat
Talk to your provider
With an annual wellness visit, which is free to anyone on Medicare, an individual's doctor can identify issues that may be a contributor to falls. Visits may also be possible through telemedicine platforms.
And, if you're prescribed a new medication, ask your pharmacist or doctor about side effects like dizziness or drowsiness.
"If you don't use it, you lose it," Dr. Angelo said.
His advice doesn't necessarily mean one must hit the gym every day — exercise could be as simple as standing up from a a chair a few times per day.
"That is worth its weight in gold in terms of really improving your strength and balance, and at the same time reducing your risk of falls," he said.
Eliminate risks at home
Most falls occur at home. Remove clutter, make sure lighting is adequate, and make sure rugs on the floor don't have the ability to bunch up and create a tripping hazard. Grab bars and handrails in the bathroom and on stairways may be necessary.
Angelo adds that individuals want to make sure that their shoes hit and have good traction.