For seniors, falling is a serious medical problem and is the leading cause of hospitalizations among older New Yorkers. NY1's Erin Billups takes a look at what is a growing problem in advance of Falls Prevention Awareness Week which starts September 21.
Gertrude Moses is a proud 80 years old but a downside to aging she says is that she's less sure on her feet. She's suffered a few falls, the worst while climbing into the bathtub.
"I didn’t have my bath mat stuck to the tub and when I got in it slipped," the Williamsburg resident recalls.
She'd hit her head, but luckily, X-rays showed little damage for Moses, who was headed to the hospital anyway that day for heart surgery. But it was eye opening.
"I said, 'Oh my goodness I’m getting old,'" says Moses.
Falls among older adults in the city lead to more hospitalizations than pneumonia, asthma, and bronchitis combined. And once a senior falls it many times leads to one of the biggest issues associated with the accidents.
"They're usually very frightened," notes Moses.
Mount Sinai Geriatrics Physician Helen Fernandez says that fear affects about 40 percent of older adults.
"They're fearing that they are going to fall again. They're not as active; they become more depressed, and more functionally impaired," says Dr. Fernandez.
As a result, other health issues arise like a worsening of diabetes and heart disease.
The cost to the health care system is staggering and will continue to grow as baby boomers age.
"We spend about $30 billion related to falls. In New York City it's around under $800 million," says Dr. Fernandez.
Experts like Fernandez and the New York City Department for the Aging are hoping to prevent falls by fixing hazards at home where the majority of falls occur.
"Clutter, lighting, getting rid of the throw rugs, using grab bars or any kind of support to get in and out of the bathroom is helpful," says Dr. Fernandez.
And one of the best things seniors can do is exercise.
"We've seen some studies in specific around Tai Chi which does a lot of balance, flexibility...50 percent reduction in fall rates," says Dr. Fernandez.
If you are home-bound, simple leg lifts with ankle weights can help bring strength and confidence back.