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Senior scene

September 15, 2012

From the Office: First day of autumn a perfect time for fall awareness

Many people think that falls are a normal part of aging. They are not. Falls are not accidents, they are not inevitable acts of fate, but something that can and should be prevented.

A number of contributors to this space have discussed fall prevention in the past, and with good reason. Falls are the leading cause of injury deaths, hospitalization and emergency department visits in adults 65 and older. Falls can result in lasting consequences, affecting mobility, independence and mental health. Falls have such a large impact on those 65 and older that the first day of fall each year has been designated as national Falls Prevention Awareness Day — this year, Sept. 22.

Falls not only have serious consequences for individuals, their loved ones and caregivers, but also to the health care system. In New York state, every day, falls result in the death of two older individuals, 140 are hospitalized and 223 are seen in emergency rooms. Annually this costs $1.7 billion in hospitalization and $145.3 million in outpatient emergency department charges. Ninety-five percent of these costs are billed to public programs such as Medicare and Medicaid and don’t begin to address the costs of resulting rehabilitation or nursing home stays.

The National Council on Aging has identified 10 myths about falls. They are as follows:

Myth 1:

Falling happens to other people, not to me.

Reality: Many people think, “It won’t happen to me.” But the truth is that one in three older adults — about 12 million — fall every year in the U.S.

Myth 2:

Falling is something normal that happens as you get older.

Reality:

Falling is not a normal part of aging. Strength and balance exercises, managing your medications, having your vision checked and making your living environment safer are all steps you can take to prevent a fall.

Myth 3:

If I limit my activity, I won’t fall.

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