Medicare 2016 Rates at a Glance
Part A Premium
Most people don’t pay a monthly premium for Part A If you buy Part A, you’ll pay $411/mo. (an increase of $7/mo. from 2015).
Part A Hospital Inpatient
Deductible and Coinsurance
$1,288 deductible for each benefit period (an increase of $28 from 2015)
Days 1-60: $0 coinsurance for each benefit period (same as 2015)
Days 61-90: $322 coinsurance per day of each benefit period (a $7/day increase from 2015)
Days 91 and beyond: $644 coinsurance (up $14 from 2015) per each “lifetime reserve day” after day 90 for each benefit period (up to 60 days over your lifetime)
Beyond lifetime reserve days: all costs (same as 2015)
Part B Premium
There will be no increase in monthly payment for most people. The cost will remain at $104.90/mo.
Part B Deductible
$166 per year (an increase of $19 from 2015). After the deductible is met, you typically pay 20% of the Medicare approved amount for most doctor services.
Dental health/oral hygiene is particularly challenging as we age. Seniors are less prone to cavities than younger people but are more susceptible to serious dental conditions such as gingivitis, gum disease, and root decay. Some of these problems may be due to poor dental hygiene but many conditions are the result of normal changes in the mouth as we age. Adding to this problem is the fact that Medicare and many other insurances do not cover basic dental care, such as cleanings, fillings, tooth extractions, or dentures.
DENTAL HYGIENE REQUIREMENTS CHANGE AS WE AGE
As we age, the gums of our teeth often begin to recede exposing the root surface. This condition is called periodontal disease. If left untreated, the gums begin to pull away from the teeth and form deepened spaces called pockets where food particles and plaque may collect. This in turn may cause the roots of the teeth to decay and rot. Periodontal disease is particularly insidious because it is often painless until the advanced stages when teeth begin to loosen and possibly come out.
Another age related change to the mouth is the build up of a sticky colorless layer of bacteria called plaque. Plaque is often described as the fuzzy feeling people get on their teeth before brushing in the morning. Over a period of time, plaque destroys tooth enamel causing teeth to decay. It can also develop on the tooth roots under the gum and cause the breakdown of the bone supporting the tooth.
A final change that may occur as we age is dry mouth. This condition, called xerostomia, occurs when saliva in the mouth is reduced. Saliva is needed to lubricate the mouth, helping in swallowing, and in washing away foods and neutralizing acids. Xerostomia is not in itself a condition of older people but it is often caused by some illnesses such as Parkinson’s disease and diabetes. Xerostomia is also caused as a side effect of more than 1000 medications, both over the counter and prescription drugs. Some of the biggest culprits include many antihistamines, antidepressants, pain medications, and cough suppressants.
DENTAL CARE IS NOT COVERED BY MEDICARE
Although these dental conditions are quite serious, the treatments are often not covered by Medicare and are often too expensive for many seniors to afford. The consequences are dire. People who begin to suffer from loose teeth or painful chewing are often unable to eat nourishing food, which in turn causes them to suffer nutritional deficiencies and makes them more prone to illness. Other consequences of poor dental hygiene are less tangible; it often causes many seniors to lose their self-esteem and increases social isolation.
Although these situation may create difficulties in dental health, they are not insurmountable. Many organizations across the country have developed low cost dental clinics that cater to seniors. Some of these are programs are affiliated with dental schools, hospital clinics and community health networks. In Brooklyn, N.Y., Methodist Hospital in Park Slope, Brooklyn Hospital in Fort Greene, and Kings County Hospital in East Flatbush all offer dental services. In Manhattan, New York University Dental School and New York Presbyterian/Weill Cornell offer service to low-income people and the elderly as well.
Of course prevention is an important part in dental care for seniors. To maintain good oral health, each person should brush his teeth at least twice a day preferably with toothpaste that includes fluoride. Seniors should use a soft bristled toothbrush and brush for at least two minutes to make sure all teeth are clean. After each brushing it is advisable to floss and use an antiseptic mouthwash.
Careful oral hygiene does not always guarantee healthy teeth, but with a little knowledge on how to care for your teeth and where you can get inexpensive dental treatments, seniors are better able to take charge of their dental health.
Health Consumer Alert: WATCH OUT FOR MANDATORY NURSING HOME ARBITRATION
Can you believe that it is almost impossible to sue a nursing home for neglect or mistreatment? Why? Because they make you sign a contract saying you won’t sue them, and will go through private arbitration instead. Can they really do this? Read on…
A Message from New Yorkers for Patient & Family Empowerment
It’s one of the worst things you can think of – you or your loved one suffers a bad head injury. The hospital provides care, and then suddenly it’s time for discharge. But home is not an option; substantial care is still needed. The hospital recommends a nursing home. There’s no time to “shop around.”
So when they hand you a 25 page contract that includes a nursing home “mandatory arbitration clause” in which you give up your right to seek a remedy in public court for any harm from the nursing home’s actions, you hope for the best and sign to get your loved one’s pressing care needs met. But within days, the nursing home leaves your loved one unattended, and she falls and suffers a serious injury.
NURSING HOME ARBITRATION PROTECTS FACILITIES FROM LAW SUITS
That’s what happened, allegedly, in a recent civil action. But the nursing home does not want that case to reach a judge and jury. It wants to enforce a “mandatory arbitration” clause in the contract.
The matter is still in litigation and we and other groups plan to submit a “friend of the court” brief in the case. But there is a broader issue at stake: These clauses are becoming more common.
There’s something fundamentally offensive about any nursing home telling an incoming resident, “We want you to sign this agreement that says no matter how badly we harm you, you can never bring a claim against us in public court.”
Nursing home residents depend on the nursing home for their very safety. They want and need to trust the nursing home. They should never be asked to give up their right to go to court before they even know how that trust may be broken! Yet this is exactly what is happening more and more often in nursing homes.
NURSING HOME ARBITRATION PUTS RESIDENTS AT A SERIOUS DISADVANTAGE
Private arbitration is very different from a civil action in public court, and these forced arbitration clauses put nursing home residents at a serious disadvantage in many ways.
- Forced arbitration means that an arbitrator from some private arbitration firm (not appointed by a public judge) will decide whether or not you have received negligent care, rather than a jury guided by a public judge in a civil action.
- Often that private arbitration firm has already been chosen by the nursing home and is named in the contract – which means that the nursing home is likely to be a “repeat customer” of that firm. This raises a potential for institutional bias.
- There’s no public record of decisions made in private arbitrations, so you can’t tell how cases like yours have been decided in the past (although the nursing home, if a “repeat defendant,” may know). And the public has no access to information on claims being brought against nursing homes and how they are being resolved.
- It can be quite hard to find an attorney to take a private arbitration case on a “contingent fee” basis. Under a contingent fee (which is routine in personal injury actions in public court), you don’t pay up front for the attorney’s time to investigate and pursue your case. You only pay such fees if your attorney succeeds, so the funds come from the wrongdoer. Without this, the nursing home resident must fund the attorney time, which discourages the bringing of claims.
- A bad decision by an arbitrator is very hard to appeal – even if it is wrong. Justice denied may be faster but it is certainly not better.
NURSING HOME ARBITRATION ALLOWS WRONG DOINGS TO CONTINUE
The public also suffers because if fewer claims get fully investigated, “bad actors” are not brought to light and harmful wrongdoing is allowed to continue.
This unfair practice by nursing homes is so problematic that the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (“CMS”) has proposed some restrictions. But even CMS questions whether its own proposed rules will be enough. It asked for comments on whether it should ban arbitration agreements in nursing home contracts altogether.
We said yes! These forced arbitration agreements are all wrong for nursing homes. So 13 N.Y. nonprofit groups – including Patient & Family and N.Y. Statewide Senior Action Council – signed a statement to CMS. See it at www.patientandfamily.org.
Please notify us if you encounter a mandatory arbitration clause at a nursing home or other healthcare facility, via www.patientandfamily.org/contact/, or 646-465-3635.
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Senior nutrition is an important part of aging well. As seniors age, they tend to eat less. One reason is a slower metabolism and less exercise, but less eating might signal serious problems:your father might be suffering from dental problems–a major source of malnutrition among seniors; he might not be able to prepare meals easily or he might be forgetting to eat. My guest blogger, Kathy Birkett, co-founder of Senior Care Corner www.SeniorCareCorner.com and a dietician offers these important tips on seniors and nutrition.
Concerned About Your Senior’s Appetite? A Dietitian’s Tips to Improve Eating
By Kathy Birkett, Senior Care Corner
Caregivers of seniors seem to have many things to concern them including a decreasing intake.
Whether your senior is still at home or in a facility, how much and the quality of the food they choose to eat is a concern we all face.
It seems as we age, we tend to eat less for a variety of reasons. Some seniors may not want to tell you the reason they are eating less out of fear of being a burden or loss of independence.
- they aren’t moving around enough to work up a good appetite
- they don’t feel like cooking
- difficulty preparing food,
- can’t remember what to do to prepare a meal
- fear of starting a fire
- lack of money to buy food
- trouble getting to the supermarket or walking around the aisles
- can’t carry their groceries home and then into the house
- difficulty chewing, painful or loose dentures, mouth sores, difficulty swallowing, choking
Seniors are hesitant to ask for help from you. They already know how much you do for them and don’t want to ask you to help more.
Perhaps your senior loved one doesn’t want to or can’t afford going to the dentist or getting new dentures. They also don’t want to have to change what they eat regardless of the fact that it might be causing more trouble for them to swallow without choking.
To admit there are problems can be hard for our senior loved ones who don’t want to admit they are getting older, need more help or may be losing their independence.
What they might not realize is that not eating well and becoming malnourished leads to loss of muscle resulting in falls for our seniors. This can definitely lead to poor health and facility placement much sooner than they expected!
Here are some tips for caregivers to help seniors have better nutrition:
- Check their refrigerator and pantry to be sure they have healthy food available. If you don’t like what you see, talk with them about their barriers and come up with solutions.
- Invite yourself to a meal that they prepare. Observe their level of ability preparing the meal to see where there might be opportunities to modify their work areas to make cooking easier. Perhaps putting things they need in reach, adding a stool near the stove so they don’t have to stand or helping them find foods that are easier to prepare.
- Offer to take them to the supermarket or do the shopping for them to be sure they get food into the house.
- If they can’t afford healthy food, help them seek government benefits that can help supplement their food budget or look for other ways to finance their food purchases with other budget changes. Be sure they are getting all the benefits for which they are entitled by checking out this website: BenefitsCheckUp.org. Getting assistance with a heating bill can free up money for food.
- If they can’t manage preparing their own meals, set up home delivery of meals so they get at least one good meal a day. Start bringing over some meals that they can reheat in the microwave. Local restaurants can also deliver meals that they might enjoy and don’t have to cook.
- Talk to the doctor about a potential chewing or swallowing problem so that their mouth and throat can be evaluated. They may need softer foods or the help of a speech therapist to ensure they are safe when eating.
- Get their medication list reviewed by the pharmacist to be sure there are not medications on the list that can inhibit appetite.
- Schedule time to eat with them and ask others to do the same. One major obstacle to eating good meals for seniors is loneliness. They don’t want to eat alone and have no one to share the meal. If you close this gap, it could lead to improved eating.
Good nutrition is tantamount to independence for seniors. When they stop giving their bodies all the nutrients it needs and lose muscle mass, it can be the beginning of the end of their dream to age in place.
With your help, making some changes can result in better intake and a better quality of life as they age.
Kathy is Senior Care Corner’s expert on the care of senior adults and caregiving, expertise she has gained through over 30 years working with seniors, families and caregivers in both professional and personal lives. Kathy has worked with seniors in their homes as well as in nursing home, assisted living, rehab and hospital settings.
In her profession as a dietitian, Kathy gets to know elderly adults and their families closely in learning about their specific needs and situations, helping them find solutions to their issues. In doing so, she works closely with other healthcare professionals and has a broad understanding of seniors’ needs.
Kathy is active on Twitter as the voice of Senior Care Corner at @SrCareCorner.
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September 23 is National Fall Prevention Day! A recent study by the National Council on Aging reveals that a senior is seen in an emergency department every 13 seconds. According to the CDC, more than one third of adults 65 and older fall each year in the United States and 20% to 30% of people who fall suffer moderate to severe injuries. Physical therapists can help in risk reduction and prevention of falls.
Here are six tips that can prevent seniors from falling
- Work out regularly and include balance-strengthening exercise. Exercises for Elderly Fall Prevention.
- Wear sensible shoes that offer support and balance. How to Select Sensible Shoes.
- Review your medications periodically. Many drugs have side effects that might cause dizziness, weakness and falls. Medications that Can Cause Falls.
- Get your vision checked annually to insure you can see obstacles. Vision and Elderly Fall Prevention
- Keep your home safe and fall proof—remove items lying on the floor and make sure you have non-slip carpets. Preventing Falls at Home.
- Bathrooms have more fall hazards than any other room in your home. Steps to Make your Bathroom Fall Proof.
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A patient can stay in a hospital in a semi-private room, receive meals and general nursing, and even have surgery, however inpatient vs outpatient hospital stay get different medical services and will probably pay different amounts.
as seen in the Courier Life newspaper: September 1, 2015
When is a hospital stay not a hospital stay? Does this sound like a trick question? Unfortunately it is not and the answer can be costly and impact your medical care.
Many seniors are unaware that there are two kinds of hospital stays; a person can stay in a hospital as an inpatient or as an outpatient. In both cases you may stay in a semi-private hospital room, receive meals and general nursing, and even have surgery, however an inpatient will be offered different medical services and will probably pay less than an outpatient.
A hospital inpatient is someone who is formally admitted to a hospital through a doctor’s written order. The doctor writes an admission order if she feels a hospital stay is essential for the patient’s recovery.
A hospital outpatient is someone who enters the hospital, usually through the emergency room, and is considered under observation only. An outpatient can receive lab tests, X-rays and other hospital services but these services are administered to determine if he needs to be formally admitted.
Inpatient vs. Outpatient Hospital Stay
Despite the similarities in services, a patient’s status can make a big difference in what you pay and what services you can receive. Here are the biggest differences.
Seniors admitted to a hospital as inpatients are covered under Medicare Part A, the U.S. Government’s hospital insurance plan. After an initial deductible of $1260, Medicare Part A pays the cost of a semi-private room, all meals, general nursing care, and miscellaneous hospital services and supplies for up to 60 days.
Seniors who stay in a hospital for observation are classified as outpatients and are covered under Medicare Part B, the government’s medical insurance plan. Outpatients must pay an annual deductible of $147, and are then responsible for 20% copayments for every medical service received. These expenses often total more than the Medicare Part A deductible.
The cost of medicine is different for inpatients and outpatients. Inpatients have their medications paid through Medicare Part A. Outpatients must pay for medications out of pocket or through a Medicare Part D prescription drug plan. There is one more catch—if the Part D plan does not cover the drugs that are prescribed, the patient is required to pay for them himself.
A final difference between inpatients and outpatients is in the follow-up service. An inpatient who stays in the hospital for at least three days is eligible for rehabilitation services such as physical, occupational, and speech therapy in a skilled nursing facility (SNF). The first 20 days of rehab in a SNF is covered completely by Medicare Part A. After 20 days the patient is responsible for 20% of the cost for up to an additional 80 days. During that stay, the patient receives two therapy sessions every day except weekends, is provided with three meals a day and gets care from certified nursing assistances, nurses and dietary staff.
Hospital outpatients are not eligible for a rehabilitation services in a nursing home facility without paying for the stay. An outpatient could be eligible to receive some rehab services at home or in a clinic through Medicare Part B, but the rehab is less intense. The patient may see a therapist one to three times a week, but will not receive other services such as meals, housekeeping, or attendant services.
How to Determine an Inpatient vs. Outpatient Hospital Stay
A rule of thumb in determining your patient status depends on how you enter the hospital. If you enter the hospital through the emergency room you are probably classified as an outpatient, at least until a doctor officially admits you or sends you home.
You are also not an inpatient if you enter the hospital for outpatient surgery. You might be told you can stay in the hospital over night and still not be admitted. The best way to determine your status is to ask questions. Every time you receive a treatment be sure that you now how it will be billed, through Medicare Part A or Part B.
Fortunately a solution to this confusion is in sight. On August 6, 2015 President Obama signed a new law called the Notice of Observation Treatment and Implication for Care Eligibility (NOTICE) Act. The new law will go into effect in August 2016. It require that hospitals to notify patients who are under observation for more than 24 hours of their outpatient status.
NOTICE is intended to prevent Medicare beneficiaries from spending days in a hospital only to find that they have not been admitted to the hospital at all but were only under observation. This is particularly valuable for people who need rehabilitation therapy after their hospital stay.
Hospital stays are never pleasant and are often filled with concerns. The added confusion of not understanding your medical status or care options can make your stay seem even more overwhelming. By asking the right questions and understanding your rights, you can help improve the outcome.
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Families are Yelping about Nursing Homes!
Yelp, the company that publishes crowd-sourced reviews about local businesses, restaurants, and shopping, is now evaluating nursing homes.
Yelp has created a Health and Medical category that adds factual data on nursing home facilities to its review pages. The new category includes information on fines a nursing home might pay for serious deficiencies and other information on poor performance. This is in addition to comments by users who wish to share their personal attitudes and experiences about different facilities.
This is welcome news for families looking for good nursing home facilities. Until recently the most reliable source of nursing homes information has been Medicare’s Nursing Home Compare website. This website rates nursing homes on a five star scale, with a one star being the lowest rating and five stars the highest. The website rates individual nursing homes on such factors as quality care, staffing levels, and health inspections. Unfortunately in 2014 the New York Times revealed that many of the ratings were skewed due to the nursing homes rating themselves. For more information on this story, click here.
Yelp’s foray into the healthcare category offers families another resource for evaluating nursing homes. ProPublica, a nonprofit news organization known for its investigative reporting is providing the information. They are accessing the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ quarterly data on15,000 nursing homes for their evaluations.
Now families can log onto Yelp, type in the name of a nursing home in the FIND section, then indicate the area they want searched—and read the results.
Log on to the site, check out the new information and l send me your opinions. Is the information accurate? Helpful? Unclear?
Your findings will help other families understand the pluses and minuses of this new service.
5 Emergency Preparedness Steps for Seniors in Case of a Hurricane!
Seniors need special supplies in case of an emergency. They require adequate food, water, and medicine; have a backup energy supply to run medical equipment, and have a list of emergency contact information.
Hurricane season is upon us, bringing back memories of Hurricane Sandy, the 2012 super storm that devastated twenty-four states. At the height of the storm, over 7.5 million people were without power.
Most of us were not as prepared as we could have been when Sandy hit. Seniors in particular suffered special hardships. Many elderly people were trapped in high-rise apartments with no air-conditioning, no elevator service, and no access to necessary health services. New York City is fortunate that it has so many good Samaritans and community services that helped our seniors get through the crisis.
Now that we have literally weathered one storm, we should be able to prepare for another. All people should make an effort to store adequate supplies of food, water and other necessities during hurricane season but seniors should be particularly vigilant. They should consider not only storing adequate food and water in their homes but should anticipate their medical needs. This should include keeping an extra supply of medication on hand, finding backup power sources for critical home medical equipment, and developing plans in case health care services are unavailable.
Here are five steps seniors should take to weather another super storm:
1. Collect Emergency Supplies
Seniors are more prone to dehydration than younger people. They should stock enough emergency water for at least a week. A rule of thumb for seniors is to store at least one gallon of water per person per day. This is equivalent to about one six pack of bottled water per day. If a pet is involved, be sure to put aside enough water for him as well.
Stash away enough non-perishable food for a week. This can include a variety of canned foods such as prepared soups, tuna, sardines and vegetables. Other foods that can be stored include dried nuts, fruits, peanut butter and crackers. Don’t forget to pack a manual bottle opener and can opener if power goes out. If your hands are too arthritic to use a manual can opener, purchase one that runs on batteries—and don’t forget the batteries.
2. Prepare for Medical Emergencies
Create an emergency notebook that contains essential health information and place it next to the phone. The notebook should contain a copy of your Medicare card, secondary insurance information, and credit cards account numbers. Write out a list off all doctors, their specialties, and their contact information. Include their emergency phone numbers as well as office phones.
Record all medications, dosages, and when they should be taken. Note the prescription number and phone number of the pharmacist. It’s important to have all this information in a place that is readily accessible.
3. Register All Life Sustaining Medical Equipment
Some seniors require special life support equipment such as respirators, dialysis machines, or diabetic sugar monitors. All this equipment should be registered with the local utility company, such as Con Ed. Utility companies are required to maintain records on residents who are dependent on medical equipment so the company will give priority to restoring power to them.
Register all medical equipment information with the equipment supplier. Each supplier should provide its users with back up generators that insure the equipment continues to work until power is restored.
4. Create a Personal Emergency Network
Make sure that someone is aware of your presence at all times. Do you have a friend who lives near by? Ask if he or she will check on you in case of emergency. If you don’t have a friend living in the vicinity, find out if your building or neighborhood association has a network for contacting residents in case of emergency.
Some apartment complexes appoint a representative per floor who is responsible for checking each apartment in case of an emergency. Some buildings even set up a system of placing a brightly colored index cards outside each resident’s apartment to indicate their presence. The card is not removed until the inhabitant is evacuated.
5. Check on Home Health Attendant Services
If you require a daily home attendant, check on the agency’s official emergency care policy. All certified home health agencies are required to develop a written safety plan for each patient when they sign up with the agency.
The agency nurse assigns each client a priority code based on her required level of care in case of emergency. A Level 1 patient requires twenty-four hour care. This means an agency must insure that an aide stay with a patient during the crisis. A Level 2 patient is rated as a “moderate priority” indicating that services may be postponed for a day or two. Level 3 is a “low priority” patient, meaning the client can safely miss scheduled visits and a family member or friend is expected to provide support until the disaster is over.
Home care recipients should periodically check with their agency to insure their patient classification is current or that the level of care is updated. If a certified agency is not being used, be sure to discuss and agree on what procedures the care provider should follow in an emergency so there are no misunderstandings.
Let us all hope that this year the hurricane season will be mild and there will be no need to initiate an emergency plan. But let us not become complacent. It is better to be prepared and safe than endure another emergency like Super storm Sandy.
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The Obama administration is initiating changes to nursing homes regulations that are geared to modernize and improve care in nursing facilities that receive Medicare and Medicaid payments. The changes were announced at the White House Conference on Aging on July 13 2015.
Proposed nursing home regulations would strengthen oversight of antipsychotic drugs, initiate more training on dementia care and develop a more homey living environment.
Some of the most innovative initiatives include limitations on the use of antipsychotic drugs, more extensive training on Alzheimer’s and dementia treatments and a shift away from a medical model of care to more resident oriented care.
New Nursing Home Regulations would update antiquated regulations
The current Medicare/Medicaid laws and regulations have not been updated for approximately 30 years and do not include many new health initiatives. The proposed changes will require nursing homes to incorporate new advances in electronic communications and recent developments in medial management and infection control.
New Nursing Home Regulations would make facilities more homey
One welcome change that is being proposed shifts the style of care residents receive. Currently most nursing facilities follow an institutional model of care that is determined by the staff. The new model will be homier and include more family and resident input. Some of these actions would require facilities to “provide suitable and nourishing alternative meals and snacks for residents who want to eat at non-tradition times or outside of scheduled meal times.”
Another modification would allow residents to choose their own roommates. This would allow same-sex couples, siblings, other relatives, or long- term friends to share accommodations.
New Nursing Home Regulations would develop more stringent rules on drug usage
Finally there will be more safeguards against misuse of medications. Each facility’s pharmacist will be required to monitor drugs that are prescribed for excessive periods of time.
New Nursing Home Regulations still omit federal nurse-to-resident ratio requirements
One sad omission is a demand for a federal minimum nurse-to-resident ratio requirement. Nursing home advocates have been demanding that facilities require a specific number of staff to patient care. However according to the new proposals nursing homes will be required to report staffing levels, which Medicare officials said they will review for adequacy.
For a more in-depth discussion of these proposed changes read Susan Jaffee article for Kaiser Health News by clicking here
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Falling safety tips for the elderly include learning how to fall, or avoid falls: add grab bars, clear clutter, take vitamin D & E and exercise.
Fear of Falling? Steps Seniors can Take to Prevent Injuries
About one third of the population over the age of 65 falls each year, and the risk of falls increases proportionately with age. People over age of 85 are up to five times more likely to fall as adults aged 65 to 74. In 2013, 2.5 million nonfatal falls among older adults were treated in emergency departments and more than 734,000 of these patients were hospitalized.
These are scary statistics. Falling is a big threat to seniors. That does not mean that every person over the age of 65 hurts himself when he falls. My father was an example of someone who fell well. Dad was a stubborn man and even at the age of 85, he often refused to use his walker and sometimes he fell. Fortunately he never hurt himself. Part of the reason could have been luck, but a major reason he never harmed himself was he knew how to fall.
My father was an active man; he was still skiing some fairly treacherous slopes up through his mid seventies. Like any good skier Dad knew how to fall. Whenever he felt himself losing his balance, he would put his skiing techniques in practice. He would bend his knees to lower his center of gravity, twist at the waist to turn his shoulder away from the fall and spread the impact through his leg, thigh and pelvic. He would make sure that he did not fall on any one part of his body. By positioning himself in this way he never came away with more than a few bruises, even though my sister, brother and I would be emotional wrecks for days afterwards.
Of course my family would have felt better if he avoided falling all together. My father was unusual. There is no guarantee other seniors would be as lucky. The best way to avoid fall injuries is not to fall. Here are some common sense steps that seniors can take to avoid them.
Make your home fall proof: One way to avoid falls is to strategically place grab bars in areas around the house where a person is most likely to fall. This includes placing a grab bar next the bed so even if you are groggy when you wake up you can insure your balance. Bathrooms are notorious for falls. Add grab bars inside and outside the tub or shower, and add one next to the toilet.
Remove obstacles like stacks of magazines, pillows, and low tables from the living areas where you can easily trip on them. Make sure small carpets have non-slip padding underneath them, or better yet, replace them with wall-to-wall carpet. Finally improve the lighting in each room and make sure light switches are accessible.
Wear sensible shoes: Your feet become less sensitive as you age so you need shoes that offer more support. Rubber soles are less likely to slide than leather soles and offer a softer cushion. Get rid of platform and spiked heels. Flat shoes offer better balance. If you must wear high heels, make sure the heel in wide enough to make balance easy and that the base is solid and extends from the heel to the arch. Finally make sure your shoes have enough room for your toes to breath. This is particularly necessarily if you are diabetic.
Eat sensibly and take your vitamins: According to a study published in the Journal for American Geriatrics Society, vitamin D supplements increase muscle strength and improve gait and balance in older adults. This study states that a daily dose of supplemental vitamin D of 800 to 1,000 IU consistently demonstrates beneficial effects on strength and balance.
Vitamin E is another important vitamin for seniors. A vitamin E deficiency affects the central nervous system causing nerves in the hands and the feet to degenerate. It is responsible for muscle weakness, loss of balance and creates poor reflexes.
Exercise regularly: A regiment of regular exercise helps prevents falls. A combination of weight bearing, flexibility and endurance exercises keep the muscles toned and lowers the risk of falls. Regular exercise is becoming such an important part of healthy aging that many public and private exercise programs are being initiated in many individual states and throughout the country. The Silver Sneaker Fitness program, a private program offered through several Medicare Advantage health plans is available at select YMCA programs and private health clubs nationwide.
Several states have similar programs. An exercise program called Project Enhance is a partnership between Senior Services; a Seattle Washington based company, the University of Washington, and Group Health Cooperative. In New York City, the City Parks Foundation offers senior fitness programs that include free tennis lessons, exercise classes, swim programs, and fitness walks in 14 parks across the city.
The nation is becoming more aware of the importance of senior health and is developing programs that encourage seniors to age safely and avoid dangerous situations such as falls. By exercising regularly, watching your diet, and making a few changes to your life styles, seniors can expect to live more healthy and productive lives