Preventing Elderly Falls: Saving Lives and Money

ST. LOUIS, Mo. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — Every 20 minutes, an elderly person dies from injuries sustained in a fall. In fact, falls are the most common cause of head injuries and fractures in older adults. The annual medical costs of treating people who fall are estimated at $30 billion. This number is expected to increase as the population ages. However, there are things you can do to decrease your risk of falling. Ivanhoe has the details.

“I lay in the yard for about two and a half hours before the next door neighbor saw me lying there,” Sarah Grant shared.

“I had fallen so many times, and I was by first name with the firefighters,” said Patricia Bersche.

Grant and Bersche laugh it off now, but falls are frightening and common among older people. In fact, older people without any risk factors have a 25-33% chance of falling, but…

Susan Stark, PhD, an occupational therapist at Washington University in St. Louis led a study to see if home-based behavioral intervention changed fall risk.

“It can be things like adding a grab bar or changing the way you do something like turning on a light before you go down the stairs,” Stark said.

Emily Somerville, OTD, OTR/L at Washington University in St. Louis has visited Grant three times. She witnessed what Grant was doing that put her in danger.

“So we added this grab bar here for these two steps when she goes down or up the stairs, here,” Somerville explained.

Other simple but effective solutions… add a grab bar to get in and out of the shower and get in and out of the toilet. A tub bench can also help with getting in and out safely. Stark’s study saw a 40% reduction in falls.

“So we’ve not only reduced falls, we’ve actually reduced overall health care costs,” Stark said.

The study found that they saved more than $2 on medical care for every dollar spent on prevention.

The average cost of the intervention per person was $765, and the reduction in health care costs per person was estimated at $1,613. Although there is evidence supporting the cost-benefits of home modification in the UK, Australia and Germany, this study is the first to demonstrate the effectiveness of a community-based approach in the US .

Contributors to this report include: Marsha Lewis, producer; and Roque Correa, editor and videographer.

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