Life After 65: Save Money, Prevent Falls

Do you remember suffering falls as a child? You might have turned your ankle or lost your balance while learning to ride a bike, resulting in scrapes, pain, and tears. The cost of most childhood tumbles was a 10 -cent Band-Aid and your pride. W hen you are older, however, similar spills can run you a lot more.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), falling is the most common reason for hospital admissions to treat physical injury in Americans over 65 years old. If you fall and get hurt, you might need ambulance and paramedic services, emergency treatment, overnight stays, tests, medication, and rehab. No matter what kind of insurance you have, the out-of-pocket costs can range from significant to exorbitant.

The best money-saving solution, of course, is to not fall. Once you do, it's too late. Preventing slips and trips takes forethought and conscious effort, which d on't cost you a thing. Learn how high the stakes are, which risks apply to you, and what you can do to minimize the danger of falling.

You already have several compelling motives to take action. Like everyone else, you want to remain alive, healthy, and independent. The question is, how much money can not falling in your later years save you? 

How Much Do Fall Injuries Cost?

When older people fall, they tend to break bones or suffer head injuries. Both effects can be serious, leading to disability or death. Professional treatment may entail surgery. A full recovery might depend on medical supplies, prescription drugs, and physical therapy. If you worry about making a single copayment for a doctor's office visit, consider what your total bill might be.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that an average medical bill for a fall injury was $35,000 in 2006. Medicare patients could expect insurance to pay for only 78 percent of that cost, leaving an outstanding balance of $7,700 for the senior patient to cover. T his figure, adjusted for today's dollar, only represents the direct expenses. If you're still working when disabled, you might lose your income.. If you die from complications, you'll pass along funeral expenses as well.

More than one-third of Americans over 65 fall each year, the NIH reports. As you get older, your risk of falling continues to increase. And you're not alone. As the bulk of the U.S. population ages, more people seek treatment from falls, pushing health care demand and costs upward, s o the price tag for fall injuries in your lifetime will probably keep rising.

Immediate treatment expenses can be steep, but the bills don't necessarily stop when your bone mends or your concussion subsides. Hip fractures and brain injuries, for instance, may need long-term or even permanent care. The National Council on Aging pegs medical fees at between $10,000 and $20,000 in the first year after a fall injury. Going without proper treatment can result in the ultimate cost: death.

Which Factors Increase Fall Risk?

The chances of falling and breaking bones grow with age due to many converging health issues. These may include:

·       Foot pain

·       Dehydration

·       Vision trouble

·       High blood pressure

·       Loss of balance

·       Loss of bone mass

·       Loss of muscle mass

·       Nutritional imbalance

·       Dizziness or side effect from medication

Some of these risk factors are distinct, and some can result from other conditions. For instance, insufficient fluid intake,  combined with a high-sodium diet, might make you pass out, fall, and hit your head. Or you might grow dizzy when standing due to high blood pressure or a prescription drug, causing you to lose your balance, fall, and break a bone. If your bone mass is already reduced by osteoporosis, an otherwise strong area of the body, such as your hip, might give way upon impact or upon bearing your own weight.

Preventing falls hinges to some degree on knowing your current medical conditions  and their potential effects. If you have diabetes, foot pain might cause a misstep and a fall. If you have macular degeneration, overlooking obstacles in your path might lead to a slip, trip, and fall. The next time you see your doctor, discuss which physical conditions put you at risk. Then make a plan to address those that you can control.

How Can You Prevent Falls?

Pursuing a healthy diet and performing daily exercise can cut your risk for falling by improving your physical shape. Making your home environment safer also helps you avoid injuries. For the latest guidance, look up the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the Department of Health and Human Services' Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans online. These reports will tell you what you need to eat and what type of exercise to get to stay healthy for your age. Being in peak condition will reduce the odds of falling.

Many people over 65 have chronic health conditions. Don't rely solely on medications to manage your long-term issues. If you've been diagnosed with osteoporosis, for example, be diligent about exercising, getting enough calcium and vitamin D, and reducing your intake of caffeine and carbonated drinks. If you have high blood pressure, cut the amount of salt in your diet and take extra care in moving from a sitting to standing position.

You might not notice that your living space has become more likely to contribute to falls. Ask a friend to help you review each room of your home for potential hazards. Deal with slippery rugs, loose electrical cords, and poor lighting. Add helpful items like grab bars, railings, and ramps. With a small investment, you might avoid becoming an injury statistic.

Perhaps the most preventable factor in fall injuries is denial. Accept the reality that your chance of losing your footing and hurting yourself after you turn 65 is 1 in 3Most importantly, don't dismiss the consequences of falling as just another boo-boo. The costs are high. Apart from the harmful or fatal results, falling as an older adult might be the most expensive wrong move you'll ever make.

References:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Costs of Falls Among Older Adults

cdc.gov/homeandrecreationalsafety/falls/fallcost.html

 

National Council on Aging: Elder Falls Prevention

ncoa.org/wp-content/uploads/Falls-Funding-Issue-Brief-8-15.pdf

 

National Institutes of Health: Falls and Older Adults

nihseniorhealth.gov/falls/aboutfalls/01.html

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