For those 65 and older, falling can be fatal; in fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that falls are the leading cause of injury-related deaths among this age group, and some 40 percent of seniors fall at least once each year. Additionally, one in four who sustains a hip fracture from a fall will die within a year, and another 50 percent will never return to their pre-fall level of mobility. With May designated as Older Americans Month, Health Net, Inc. (NYSE:HNT) is using the occasion to share with seniors steps they can take to prevent potentially life-threatening falls.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration on Aging (AoA), one in every eight Americans is now 65 or older. “This means that a sizeable segment of the population is at risk for falling,” says Jonathan Scheff, M.D., chief medical officer for Health Net, Inc. “For the elderly,” he adds, “falls often lead to a downward health spiral, so the key is taking steps to prevent falls in the first place. Older Americans are living longer than ever, and our goal at Health Net is to help them avoid debilitating injuries and enjoy their golden years.”
Home fall-prevention checklist
The National Safety Council notes that – during any given week – more than 30,000 Americans over the age of 65 are seriously injured by falling, and the majority of those falls occur at home. “These are largely preventable injuries,” explains Scheff, “so we’re urging seniors to follow the AoA’s recommendations for preventing falls at home.” These recommendations include:
- Install handrails on both sides of any stairways;
- Secure all throw rugs and area rugs with tacks, nonskid pads, or double-sided rug tape;
- Use non-skid floor wax;
- Remove soap buildup in tubs and showers;
- Place non-slip strips in tub and shower; secure bathmats with double-sided tape;
- Install adjustable-height showerheads;
- Mount grab bars on both sides of toilet, as well as on bath and shower walls;
- Keep items used frequently within easy reach to eliminate the need for a step stool;
- Plug nightlights in hallways, bedrooms, bathrooms and stairways;
- Install light switches at the top and bottom of stairs;
- Place a lamp and telephone near your bed;
- Remove any clutter from hallways and other high-traffic areas.
Wellness fall-prevention checklist
As Scheff points out, “In addition to making their homes as fall-proof as possible, older Americans also can take steps that will both improve wellness and reduce the risk of falling.” Toward this end, the CDC suggests that seniors:
- Exercise regularly, because lack of exercise leads to weakness, which in turn increases the chances of falling; exercises that improve balance – such as yoga and Tai chi – are especially beneficial;
- Review with your health-care provider the medications – both over-the-counter and prescription – that you’re currently taking to determine if any are causing significant drowsiness or disorientation, as these conditions increase the risk of falling;
- Have your vision checked regularly to detect conditions – such as glaucoma or cataracts – that could impair vision and possibly cause a fall; those who wear glasses also should have annual vision tests.
Scheff additionally suggests that seniors contact their health plan and ask if they offer fall-prevention assistance. “At Health Net,” he says, “our Medicare Advantage members can be referred to a health coach who will assess their risk of falling and then help them take steps designed to prevent falls.”
Medical Advice Disclaimer
The information provided is not intended as medical advice or as a substitute for professional medical care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other health provider for any questions you may have regarding your medical condition and follow your health care provider’s instructions.
About Health Net
Health Net, Inc. is a publicly traded managed care organization that delivers managed health care services through health plans and government-sponsored managed care plans. Its mission is to help people be healthy, secure and comfortable. Health Net, through its subsidiaries, provides and administers health benefits to approximately 6.0 million individuals across the country through group, individual, Medicare (including the Medicare prescription drug benefit commonly referred to as “Part D”), Medicaid, U.S. Department of Defense, including TRICARE, and Veterans Affairs programs. Health Net’s behavioral health services subsidiary, Managed Health Network, Inc., provides behavioral health, substance abuse and employee assistance programs to approximately 5.0 million individuals, including Health Net’s own health plan members. Health Net’s subsidiaries also offer managed health care products related to prescription drugs, and offer managed health care product coordination for multi-region employers and administrative services for medical groups and self-funded benefits programs.
For more information on Health Net, Inc., please visit Health Net’s website at www.healthnet.com.