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Falls remain a top thread to senior independence

Q. My 86-year-old dad lives alone at home and I am increasingly concerned about his safety. What are the threats to him as an elderly senior?
As seniors age they can become more vulnerable to the effects of aging, which may threaten their ability to remain at home. And one of the biggest threats is falls. The latest research reveals that even seemingly minor falls can hold the potential for damage to a senior.
These relatively harmless falls can actually lead to severe injury and death in elderly people, according to a study published in The Journal of Trauma: Injury, Infection, and Critical Care. As the population continues to age, it is important for physicians and caregivers to be aware of and prepared to deal with this issue, which could significantly impact the overall health and well-being of older adults.
In contrast to falls from greater heights, ground-level falls – essentially falls from a standing position, with feet touching the ground prior to the fall – have traditionally been considered minor injuries. But the new study found senior adults – 70 years or older – who experience ground-level falls are much more likely to be severely injured and less likely to survive their injuries compared with adults younger than 70 years.
In fact, elderly patients are three times as likely to die following a ground-level fall compared with their under-70 counterparts. “This study brings up the important question of what we need to do as a society to help older adults take care of themselves,” said Trauma surgeon and researcher Julius Cheng, M.D., M.P.H., associate professor in the Department of Surgery at the University of Rochester Medical Center and lead author of the new study.
“Instead of just treating falls as they happen, the focus should be on what we can do to help older people avoid them in the first place. This can be as simple as making sure there is no loose carpeting in their home, and putting railings on both sides of stairways and in bathtubs and showers.”
Another safety strategy for seniors at home alone is the assistance of a companionship company such as the local Home Instead Senior Care® office. The company’s CAREGiversSM, who are screened, trained, bonded and insured, can serve as a second set of eyes and ears to help keep seniors safe in their homes.
For more information about Home Instead Senior Care,
contact Jena Hare at 704-636-2010 or visit www.homeinstead.com.  For more about the study, visit http://www.urmc.rochester.edu/news/story/index.cfm?id=3020

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