Senior Health Ancillary Services to Prevent Falls 6/21/2021 | By Seniors Guide Staff Falls are all too common in aging adults. Statistically, an older adult will fall every second of every day in the U.S. And every 20 minutes, someone over the age of 65 will die from a fall. To put that into perspective, that’s approximately four times the number of flu cases annually. Even when they are not fatal, these falls are causing fractures, brain injuries, and loss of independence, not to mention the costs. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that Medicare spends about $31 billion on falls each year. And as the number of aging adults continues to increase, it is possible, according to the CDC, that by 2030, there could be up to 49 million falls, 12 million of which will result in injuries each year. However, there is positive news – there are ancillary services to prevent falls. Evidence-based interventions could intercept many of these falls. By having their hearing, vision, and feet checked every year, older adults can reduce their risk of falls significantly. Here three of these ancillary services and how they help to prevent falls for you or your aging parents. Audiology Hearing and balance are essential to your overall well-being, contributing to your stability and movement. Audiologists play a crucial role in determining the risk factors for falling and educating their patients on reducing the risk. For example, various issues can cause dizziness, but it is often related to the inner ear. An audiologist can identify and diagnose the vestibular disorders that are causing dizziness and imbalance. They can then offer treatment options, including head position maneuvers, balance exercises, and, in some cases, psychotherapy. They may also prescribe medications to manage the symptoms. If you think you or a loved one might have a balance disorder, ask your primary care physician to recommend an audiologist specializing in vestibular disorders. They can be one of the most essential services to prevent falls for you or your loved one. Optometry Poor vision is among the leading factors that contribute to falls in older adults. Just like other parts of the body, our eyes become weaker after many years of use. And those with visual impairment are particularly susceptible to falls. The chance of developing eye diseases, such as glaucoma, macular degeneration, cataracts, and diabetic retinopathy, increases with age. Aging also increases the risk for disorders that are not directly related to the eyes, such as strokes resulting in considerable loss of vision. Optometrists play a vital role in protecting aging adults from falls by ensuring that their patient’s eyeglasses are up to date and that any ocular diseases have been diagnosed and treated. They should be aware that putting someone already at risk for falls into multifocal lenses for the first time could increase that risk. They can also help by educating their patients not to look through the bifocal section of their glasses while walking, especially when going up and down stairs. Regular eye exams are a critical element of healthy living for seniors since reduced visual acuity, and visual field loss are related to increased fall risk. Related: The Importance of Fall Detection Apps for Seniors Podiatry As it does with vision and hearing, the aging process compromises a senior’s ability to stand and walk safely. People fall more frequently and with more dire consequences as they age. Some factors that amplify the risk of falling – obesity, medications, poor vision, and dizziness – are beyond the purview of podiatry. However, other risk factors that increase falls among the elderly can be eliminated through podiatric intervention. Because healthy feet tend to be stable feet, podiatry has taken on a leading role in services to prevent falls for seniors. Many podiatrists have begun to integrate fall prevention strategies among the elderly as a standard component of their practice. They treat the conditions that typically affect older patients – fungal infections, calluses, ingrown toenails, and neuropathy caused by diabetes. But they also focus on the factors that may result in falls. The reduction of foot pain leads to fewer falls. Restoring ankle flexibility and foot strength and treating fall-causing conditions such as bunions, plantar fasciitis, and foot sores have become a primary mission of modern podiatry. Other Services to Prevent Falls The CDC has developed a system to suggest assessments and interventions for older Americans who have had two or more falls or one fall-related injury. These interventions include exercise – specifically balance, strength, gait training; vitamin D supplements; medication management; home environment modification, vision issues, foot problems, and footwear. Read More Seniors Guide Staff Seniors Guide has been addressing traditional topics and upcoming trends in the senior living industry since 1999. We strive to educate seniors and their loved ones in an approachable manner, and aim to provide them with the right information to make the best decisions possible. Related Resources Welcome Over-the-Counter Hearing Aids Finally, hearing aids have become more affordable. Seniors Guide looks at the advent of over-the-counter hearing aids. There is no ... [Read More] 6/21/2021 | By Kari Smith Finding Time to Exercise is Easier Than You Think Finding time to exercise is easier than you think. Read on for some great practical tips on how to fit ... [Read More] 6/21/2021 | By Howard LeWine, M.D.