Each year, about 10,000 hospital emergency room visits and nearly 5,000 hospital admissions are from Western New Yorkers aged 65 or older who have taken a fall, according to a report by Univera Healthcare.
"Avoiding falls is one of the most important things adults 65 and older can do to maintain their health and independence," said Dr. Richard Vienne, Univera Healthcare vice president and chief medical officer. "Our report shows that one in three U.S. adults ages 65 and older falls each year. We expect to see that number increase, now that the baby boom generation is reaching age 65."
Falls are the leading cause of injury-related deaths, emergency room visits and hospital stays for adults ages 65 and older. The impact on health care spending in Western New York is substantial, with the average annual cost of fall-related ER visits among adults ages 65 and older approaching $10 million a year, and the average annual cost of fall related hospitalizations exceeding $100 million.
Across upstate New York, the average annual cost of fall-related ER visits among adults ages 65 and older is $30 million a year, and the average annual cost of fall-related hospitalizations is $321 million.
Western New York had the lowest fall-related death rate of all upstate New York regions studied. On average from 2008 through 2010, 3.6 fall-related deaths occurred per 10,000 adults age 65 and older in Western New York, compared to the highest death rate, 6.5 fall-related deaths per 10,000 older adults in the Finger Lakes.
The Univera Healthcare report analyzed data from a 2010 state survey of adults age 65 and older. Participants were asked whether they had fallen and were injured in the previous three months. The report also included state hospital and ER data for 2008 through 2010. The report, Fall incidence and costs among adults 65 and older in upstate New York reflects the most recent data available.
"We often believe that falling is a natural part of aging, but it doesn't have to be like that," said Dr. Betty Perkins-Carpenter, of Penfield, N.Y., a falls prevention expert, former Olympic diving coach and author of the book How to Prevent Falls: Better Balance, Independence and Energy in 6 Simple Steps.
According to Perkins-Carpenter, performing certain movements over and over again can help strengthen muscles, improve balance and reduce the risk of injury from falling. She offers these fall prevention tips:
Practice "The 10 Martini Slump" by always relaxing into a chair or bed. Too often, seniors stiffen when they fall, increasing their chances of an injury. This exercise trains adults to learn to relax if they accidentally fall.
"You are mastering the art of falling through practice," said Perkins-Carpenter. "A stiff body breaks. A limp body bends."
Turn on the radio or sing a favorite song and dance around the room holding a pillow as though it were a dance partner. Dancing forward, backward and sideways helps strengthen legs and improve balance, all of which can help adults avoid a fall.
Stretch in bed to improve flexibility and mobility and help relieve the fear of falling.
For more information, visit univerahealthcare.com/wps/portal/uv/our.