About Half of All Americans Over 65 Have a Fall — Each Year

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Click to look at the CDC’s complete pamphlet.

I’ve just finished reading a Washington Post article, Strategies for Preventing Falls, Which Are Especially Risky for Older People, appearing in the online edition on March 16, 2015, It reviews the risks, examines the facts about falling, describes how to check an individual’s steadiness, and makes suggestions about the various ways a person can improve balance.

The article describes a number of tests that can evaluate whether a person is prone to falling. An aging parent should perform them with a physician or physical therapist, who can go through the series of steps and safely evaluate whether or not a person is likely to fall. Physically fit adult children can probably experiment —  carefully — at home with some of these tests. The Washington Post article explains them in detail, so I’ve just listed the tests below, and I’ve also linked several of the tests to videos.                        Continue reading

Falls, Falls, and More Falls – Part II

The other day I wrote about elder adults and falls after reading Bracing for the Falls of an Aging Nation, published in the November 2, 2014 New York Times. The author, Katie Hafner, wrote about the extreme challenges of falls for aging individuals. The next day, November 3rd, part II appeared. Katie Hafner’s second piece, A Tiny Stumble, A Life Upended, focused on one individual and her arduous recovery from a damaging fall. Both articles are worth reading.

My Past Blog Posts on Adult Falls

Falls, Falls, and More Falls for Older Adults – NY Times Article

The line on each bar illustrates the margin or error. Statisticians call this a confidence interval.

The line on each bar illustrates the margin or error. Statisticians call this a confidence interval.

I’ve just finished reading Bracing for the Falls of an Aging Nation, uploaded a few hours ago on the New York Times website. Long time readers of this blog, AsOurParentsAge,  know that I’ve been keenly interested in falls, and I’ve written about them often (see a list of links at the end of this post). My husband’s parents experienced some terrible falls, and one lead within to my father-in-law’s death a month or so afterward.

The Times article, by Katie Hafner, datelined in San Francisco, describes the increasing frequency of elder falls and the challenges presented, principally in one community for older adults. This is a long and detailed article, periodically quoting elder experts in the field and highlighting that many older adults, even the parents of some of these experts, continue to reject canes, walkers, and other supports that offer them greater balance. The report includes several excellent graphics. Continue reading

Eurhythmics, Aging Elders, and Falls

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Link to video @ YouTube.

In light of my most recent post (April 23, 2013) about the effect of music during my parents’ Bible study sessions, I am reposting this blog post describing an article about music, eurhythmics, and elders.

How interesting to read about the research Effect of Music-Based Multitask Training on Gait, Balance, and Fall Risk in Elderly People (abstract), an article published in the Archives of Internal Medicine. The article is not freely available from the medical journal, so to read it you will need to speak with a librarian or go to a hospital library.

The article points out that most seniors’ falls occur when people are performing concurrent tasks and that “each year more than a third of the population 65 years and older experiences at least one fall.” The  Swiss medical researchers wondered whether participation in a music-based program involving concurrent tasks of movement and music might have a positive effect on the factors that can cause a fall — gait and balance — thereby reducing the frequency of falls.

The music activity they chose for their research is eurhythmics, a program of music education that combines music and movement, developed by composer Emile Jaques-Dalcroze in Geneva in the early 20th century. Not surprisingly, at least not from my perspective as a college music major and life-long very amateur musician, people who participated in six months of Dalcroze eurhythmics reduced both the rate and the risk of falling by the end of the program compared to a control group that did not take the class but carried on with life as usual. When the control group subsequently took the class for six months, the researchers found the same results.

Continue reading

Grab Bars and Railings, Not Just for Elders: My Cataract

Who knew that when we installed all sorts of grab bars and railings in our house — intended to help our elder parents — they would be useful to me years before retirement?

From the NIH ADAM Encyclopedia

I am using these accommodations all the time just now because I have a cataract, and those relative small but important changes in our house are coming in handy.

My cataract is not caused by aging. In the spring of 2012, about seven months ago, a detached retina required immediate surgery. I wrote about my experiences to provide clear and objective reports about the process of retinal surgery and my recovery.

My surgeon performed a vitrectomy, successfully correcting the problem and maintaining my vision, but he warned me ahead of time that a side-effect of the surgery is the development of a cataract. I say side-effect rather than complication because almost everyone who gets this type of surgery develops a cataract. Sure enough, about three months after my surgery I began to develop one.

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Pets Can Cause Falls

Check out these safety guidelines.

I watched it happen almost in slow motion.

An elderly woman climbed out of her golf cart, and her medium-sized dog bounded out beside her. But then the dog saw another dog and without looking back, tried to take off, jerking on the leash. The woman held onto the leash, but she fell down. Her injuries were severe enough to require a call to the rescue squad and a trip to the hospital.

A March 2012 New York Times New Old Age blog article, Rethinking the Value of Pets, highlights the dangers of mixing pets and elders, and it contains links to research on pets, people, and accidents. So many pet-related falls occur, that the article quotes Harold Herzog, a professor at Western Carolina University, who comments, “If we were giving a drug that had such serious side effects, we’d consider taking that drug off the market.”

Realistically, people are not going to give up pets. However, more care needs to be taken. Below are a few resources to read, just to keep informed about the potential problems.          Continue reading