One of the biggest challenges seniors face later in life is avoiding harmful falls. My mom has fallen several times since she had been in a memory unit (and before) and it seems to be a very common thing in her facility. (See this link to yesterday’s post of the Sweet 17 princess’s fall.) 🙁 The smaller (more frail and weak) they are, the harder they fall…or perhaps the “harder” the resulting damage is on them?
The National Council on Aging underscores this critical fact with the following stats:
- One in four Americans aged 65+ falls each year.
- Every 11 seconds, an older adult is treated in the emergency room for a fall; every 19 minutes, an older adult dies from a fall.
- Falls are the leading cause of fatal injury and the most common cause of nonfatal trauma-related hospital admissions among older adults.
- Falls result in more than 2.8 million injuries treated in emergency departments annually, including over 800,000 hospitalizations and more than 27,000 deaths.
- In 2015, the total cost of fall injuries was $50 billion. Medicare and Medicaid shouldered 75% of these costs.
- The financial toll for older adult falls is expected to increase as the population ages and may reach $67.7 billion by 2020.
Late in the first term of Ronald Reagan, little Mark Applegate remembers vividly when he first learned of the serious nature of falls for seniors. My belovedly awesome, apple pie extraordinaire G-Ma Applegate, doing pretty well for a lady of her age and living in a senior community in Clever, Missouri, fell and broke her ice-cream-wafer-thin wrist. While this physically hurt badly at the time, the next fall, just a couple of hands’ full of days later, hurt even worse: she had broken wrist number two!! 🙁 We took turns staying with her and “being her hands” as best we could for weeks until she could manage. G-Ma Cecil was a very independent woman entering this unfortunate chain of events, and this double wrist cast system threw her for a loop. Looking back on it, she wasn’t the same too much longer and, on Christmas day a couple years later (1985), she had a massive stroke. She lived out her remaining (surprisingly) many years living largely in bed in a typically cruddy late 1900’s nursing home (They have improved dramatically in the last couple decades although not without serious problems too often). My wife’s grandma, also a beautiful and brilliant star of a woman, fell and was on the ground for far too many hours before she was helped. This fall, along with serious cancer complications, shortened her life too. 🙁 Everyone has a similar story in their family whether it be broken hips, wrists or worse.
Note: Some of the many things I love about SeniorAge are related to their love of senior wellness. They have classes designed to help avoid this stinkin’ falls problem. They also do a lot to help seniors and caregivers alike in making the home safer and more fall-free with the end game of helping them stay in their homes longer and helping families who care for them in the process. Here is a link from their website about wellness classes: Wellness. SeniorAge’s meals program also helps fill in the gaps of families and friends checking on seniors to be sure all is well in the home front.
SeniorAge also has a wonderful relationship with The Senior Foundation of the Ozarks and John Conley, the Owner of Show-Me-Systems, a company dedicated to helping seniors stay home longer and keep safe from the harmful results of a fall. For some reason, memes and satire videos of the “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” commercials that we all know and have seen have trivialized this desperate and very real fall problem. Mr. Conley’s group and SeniorAge have a lot of tools to help stave off this ever-present danger.
We left mom last night and, after some rousing, she was fairly peppy. She had played the piano and ate well. She was ready for sleep at 7pm, but with sundowners always lurking for mom, 7pm sure beats the heck out of sleep starting at 7am. 🙂
Then…….unfortunately, we got the call that she had fallen in the night…again.
Nobody saw it happen (they never do), and she didn’t seem hurt. No blood, no damage, right? Wrong. We will investigate further, ask for her doctor to check her out again, and see if anything looks like it could have caused the fall. (Loose items, rugs, etc…) Not pointing fingers, complaining about care, etc…just advocating for mom who can’t advocate for herself anymore.
*****If you remember nothing else that your goofy, straw-hat-wearing-can’t-catch-fish-fisherman-writer tells you, remember this: You are your loved one’s advocate. You know them. You love them. Fight for them and their health! (lovingly when possible) 🙂 Many of the Sweet 17 have no everyday advocate. I love and superly (??) support Ombudsman, but they are stretched thin. If you can be your loved ones’ advocate, or if you don’t currently have one in need, if you could become an ombudsman, do it. Here is a link to info about their program in Missouri, but check in your state for specifics. Despite what the news says, not everything is in a crisis these days, but the number of people looking after this exploding population is crisis-ly (ok, critically) small. And, while you are out there serving, if you could take some time to work up a cure for this stinkin’ disease, that would be great as well.