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Staying Safe and Sound at Home

Sooner or later, everybody falls.

Something as natural as falling may not seem like a problem that requires a great deal of attention. But a serious fall can be a life-changing and debilitating experience, especially for seniors.

Falls are costly in both pain and money. Most fractures among older adults are caused by falls, with hip fractures being the most frequent bone break, and among the most costly to treat. The Center for Disease Control estimates that by 2020, falls may cost the nation $43.8 billion in direct and indirect costs. Falls are also deadly. Every 35 minutes an older American dies as the result of a fall. In the United States, falls lead to $19 billion in direct medical costs, according to the National Council on Aging. That doesn't include costs related to lost wages and productivity or expenses paid to care-givers that may be required after a serious fall.

Many states, including Kentucky, are developing strategies to raise awareness of how serious a problem falls are, who is at risk and how they can be prevented. AARP Kentucky is participating in the new statewide Kentucky Safe Aging Coalition to raise awareness about the dangers of falls, said there needs to be a healthy concern about falling. But seniors need to address those concerns and find the limits of what they are capable of doing physically and try to maintain and build on that.

Are You At Risk?

Ann Harrison, director of physical therapy in the University of Kentucky College of Health Sciences, and KSPAN coalition member, identified 5 characteristics of those most likely to fall:

1. People with vision problems. Annual vision exams are recommended to make sure poor vision is adjusted properly.
2. People on four or more prescription medications.
3. Those with balance problems. This is sometimes related to ear infections.
4. Weakness in the legs. An exercise program can help.
5. Loss of sensation in the feet. This is sometimes a side effect of diabetes.

Kentucky Facts About Falls

About 33,000 Kentuckian age 65 and older were treated for fall-related injuries in Kentucky hospitals in 2008. On a typical day in 2007, falls among Kentuckians 65 and older resulted in 70 emergency room visits, 16 hospitalizations, and 8 to 9 hip fractures. Kentucky's elderly population is projected to nearly double between 2010 and 2030, substantially increasing the number of people most at risk of being injured in a fall.

For More Information

AARP’s Create the Good offers great tips and ideas on how you can help yourself and others in your community. Find simple, low-cost “Home Safety Tips & Tools” online at AARP’s Create the Good.org; or connect with the Kentucky Safe Aging Coalition (859) 257-4954, online at Kentucky Injury Prevention and Research Center and Kentucky Safety and Prevention Alignment Network.

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