As most people age, their risk of falling increases. Since elderly falls can lead to serious injuries and even death, this is a hazard that everyone should take seriously. Get the facts on senior falling, learn how to prevent it, and understand whether Medicare covers the associated medical costs.
Eye-Opening Statistics on Senior Falls
If you think you and your spouse aren’t at risk of falling, take a closer look at the facts. According to the National Safety Council (NSC), adults 65 years and older are at risk of falling. While you might consider falls to be inconvenient or temporarily painful, they often have a much greater impact on your life. They may put an abrupt end to your daily activities, reduce your mobility, and even limit your independence.
In fact, “Injury Facts 2016,” the NSC-published report on unintentional injuries, states that falling is the most common cause of injury-related death for those 65 and older. The NSC reports that in 2014, falls at home caused the deaths of 20,400 people, most of whom were over 65.
As the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports, one out of every four people age 65 and over falls each year. Of those slips, one out of five leads to a serious injury such as a head injury, a traumatic brain injury, or broken bones. According to the CDC, emergency departments around the nation treat almost 3 million older people for fall-related injuries every year. Of those, around 800,000 are hospitalized.
Ways to Prevent Falling
Aging alone doesn’t cause falling, which means it won’t automatically happen to you as you get older. So what does lead to elderly falling accidents? Take a look at some of the most common risk factors, which include:
- Vision issues
- Foot pain
- A weak lower body
- Balance and gait problems
- Medication usage
- Chronic conditions like stroke or diabetes
While some of these factors might seem difficult to overcome, you can take steps to prevent most. The Mayo Clinic recommends adopting a few key strategies:
- Talk with your doctor to assess which medications you take, whether you’ve fallen before, and if your current health condition could easily lead to a fall.
- Move regularly, since staying active will help you stay in shape and retain better control over your body. Try low-impact exercises like water aerobics or tai chi.
- Rethink your footwear and wear sensible shoes that fit properly and have nonskid soles.
- Improve the lighting in your home. Add brighter lights or extra lamps to make sure you can always see where you’re going.
- Remove hazards from your home such as loose rugs, furniture that’s in the path of foot traffic, and spilled liquids.
- Use an assistive device, such as a cane, a stair rail, or grab bars in the bathtub.
No matter which preventive steps sound the most useful to you, don’t hesitate to talk with your doctor for additional advice. Your doctor may be able to refer you to a specialist or prescribe an assistive device that changes your life for the better.
How Medicare Plans Cover Elderly Falling Accidents
A split-second fall can be incredibly expensive, especially if you don’t have the right coverage. In fact, the CDC reports that Medicare costs related to falls cost over $30 million every year. Hospital costs alone total about $20 million per year, and the average hospital cost for each fall injury is over $30,000.
Fortunately, you may be able to lower your out-of-pocket costs substantially if you know what your Medicare coverage includes. Medicare Part A covers your hospital stays after a fall and may also include part-time home health care after a hospital stay.
Medicare Part B covers doctor visits and may also cover home health care treatment, such as occupational therapy, if your doctor prescribes it. Part B also covers walkers and other types of durable medical equipment. If you’re planning to invest in any type of medical equipment, talk with your doctor about which devices Medicare covers and what the eligibility requirements are.
If you’re at high risk of falling, consider purchasing a Medicare Supplement Insurance, or Medigap, policy to fill any coverage gaps in your Medicare plan. All Medigap plans cover Part A coinsurance and hospital costs for up to one year after you’ve used up your Medicare benefits. Some plans also cover Part A or Part B deductibles and Part B copayments, which can give you additional peace of mind.
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