- The risk of falling increases with age and can become a tremendous burden for older adults, affecting their quality of life physically and emotionally
- Falls can have a greater impact on older adults’ quality of life than even diabetes, hypertension and other chronic conditions
MINNETONKA, Minn.--(BUSINESS WIRE)-- In observance of Falls Prevention Awareness Day Sept. 23, UnitedHealthcare is urging people to know the risks associated with falling and is encouraging older Americans to take simple yet essential steps to reduce fall injuries.
A recent survey in the August edition of the Journal of Gerontological Nursing conducted by UnitedHealthcare, in consultation with AARP Services, Inc., showed that the risk of falling increases with age and can become a tremendous burden for older adults, affecting their quality of life physically and emotionally. The survey also found that falls and the risk of falling can have a greater impact on older adults’ quality of life than even diabetes, hypertension and other chronic conditions.
“The risks and consequences of falling create an enormous and life-changing burden for older Americans and their loved ones, with evidence pointing to the long-term effects that a fall can have on one’s quality of life,” said Dr. Rhonda Randall, executive vice president and chief medical officer, UnitedHealthcare Medicare & Retirement. “Fortunately, falls are largely preventable, and there are several steps that everyone can take at home to ensure a fall-free environment for yourself and your loved ones.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in every three adults age 65 and older fall every year. Among this age group, falls are the leading cause of injury death, with more than 18,000 older Americans dying each year from unintentional fall injuries. The CDC also notes that 20 to 30 percent of those who fall suffer moderate to severe injuries, including lacerations, hip fractures and head traumas. Such injuries diminish an older adult’s mobility and independence and can shorten overall life expectancy.
Based on recommendations and guidance from the CDC and the National Institute on Aging, UnitedHealthcare recommends the following tips to fall-proof any living environment:
• Clear pathways. Pick up papers, books, shoes and other clutter.
• Secure carpets and electrical cords. Prevent loose carpets and electrical cords from causing falls.
• Safe-proof stairs. Install sturdy, easy-to-grip railings running the full length of the stairs. Ask an electrician to install light fixtures above stairways and switches at the top and the bottom of stairs if you don’t have them.
• Lighten up. Check lighting during the day and at night. Install additional fixtures or boost lighting with brighter bulbs. Keep a lamp or other lighting fixture at your bedside. Plug in nightlights.
• Pay extra attention to bathrooms. Install grab handles by the tub, shower and toilet. Put nonskid mats or self-stick strips inside your shower or tub. Install an elevated toilet seat.
• Monitor outside environments. Be aware of and fix any breaks or uneven areas. Clean up loose hoses, rocks, pet toys or holes in the lawn. Sprinkle salt or kitty litter on slippery areas.
• Maintain a clean environment. Use nonskid floor wax or other floor-finishing products. Wipe up spills immediately, especially on ceramic tile floors.
• Put objects within reach. Avoid using ladders. Store items in easily reached shelves.
• Wear shoes with good traction. These will prevent slipping while you do housework, yard work or exercising. Wear low-heeled shoes.
• Be aware of dizziness. Slowly get up from lying or sitting positions. Use grab bars in the bathroom. Establish firm support when reaching or bending. Remember, alcohol consumption can affect coordination. Ask your doctor about medications that cause dizziness. Also, exercise regularly. If living alone, have daily contact with family or friends. Consider an emergency response device in your home.
• Partner with your doctor. Have eyes checked yearly and have hearing tested every two years. Let your doctor know if you have fallen, or if you’re dizzy. If your doctor recommends a cane or walker, follow their guidance.
• Get enough calcium and vitamin D. Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium. You need at least 400 to 800 IU of vitamin D every day. Studies show that most older adults do not get enough vitamin D from such sources as exposure to sunlight; egg yolks; saltwater fish; fortified dairy products; and vitamin and mineral supplements. Vitamin D has also been shown to decrease the risk of falls.
To learn more about how to prevent falls among older Americans, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institute on Aging at:
UnitedHealthcare is dedicated to helping people nationwide live healthier lives by simplifying the health care experience, meeting consumer health and wellness needs, and sustaining trusted relationships with care providers. The company offers the full spectrum of health benefit programs for individuals, employers and Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries, and contracts directly with more than 650,000 physicians and care professionals and 5,000 hospitals nationwide. UnitedHealthcare serves more than 38 million people and is one of the businesses of UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH), a diversified Fortune 50 health and well-being company.
Mark Drake, 952-931-5836
KEYWORDS: United States North America Minnesota
INDUSTRY KEYWORDS: Seniors Health Professional Services Insurance Consumer Hispanic General Health Managed Care