About one in four people in the United States over age 65 reports falling each year. Among older adults, 1 out of 5 falls causes a serious injury, including 90% of hip fractures and 51% of traumatic brain injuries.
Contributing factors for falls include poor balance, poor vision, certain medications, alcohol consumption, physical inactivity, osteoporosis, physical disabilities, and general frailty. Falls can present a more significant health threat than many may realize, but by understanding risk factors and how to reduce them, older adults can empower themselves to live healthier lives.
Dr. Tia Hooper from UnitedHealthcare’s Medicare & Retirement plan of Florida offers tips for preventing falls and maintaining good health and independence.
Medications. Any time you get a new prescription, ask your pharmacist or doctor about side effects like dizziness or drowsiness that can affect balance.
Footwear. Make sure your shoes fit, have good traction, and are comfortable. See a doctor if you are experiencing foot pain.
Check your home. Most falls happen at home. Remove clutter, fix steps that are uneven, and make sure there is adequate lighting. Install grab bars and handrails in the bathroom and on stairways. Use a cane, walker, crutches, or other support if needed.
Stay active. Do exercises that can strengthen your legs and improve balance. Many Medicare plans offer benefits to help seniors stay active.
Talk to your doctor. A health care provider can help assess and reduce your fall risk. Medicare-eligible individuals can access care through an Annual Wellness Visit, which is free to anyone with Medicare insurance.
Review your health benefits. As we approach the Medicare annual enrollment period in October, older adults should consider whether their existing plan includes programs that can help reduce the chances of a fall.
Many Medicare Advantage plans, for example, include benefits that original Medicare does not cover that can help reduce the risk of falls, such as vision and hearing benefits, gym memberships, and disease management programs.