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October 8, 2013
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Sam Bauman: Take steps to prolong life, prevent a fall

The recent weather being kind, I decided to try the Echo Lake trail, which leads to Lake Aloha. I got there on a sunny morning but found the lodge and parking deserted, probably meaning the trail was closed. But I decided to hoof it around the.

The trail was in good shape, and I made it to the trailhead easily and started going up the steep part, the trail littered with broken stones.

A couple of hundred yards up, I stepped on a loose stone and felt my knees, mostly on the steel right one. No serious damage, but it was painful.

I gave up on Aloha and drove home. All of this reminded me of articles I had read on the Internet about seniors’ risk of falling at any time and place. So I picked up some suggestions.

Many don’t know that falls are the No. 1 cause of senior injuries, resulting in more than 2.3 million emergency room visits annually, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Falls in older adults often cause injuries, and lead to physical and emotional problems. A few more quoted quick facts about senior falls from the CDC:

• Most fractures in older Americans are caused by falls, including severe injuries such as hip fractures.

• Falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injury— and, by the same token, TBI can cause severe, even fatal falls.

• Senior women are about twice as likely to suffer fall-related fractures.

• Senior men are more likely than women to die from a fall.

• Falls in seniors can lead to a greater fear of falling, which can lead to reduced physical activity and fitness.

• The economic cost of falls is high — about $30 billion in direct medical costs in 2010.

The National Council on Aging writes, “Falling is not an inevitable result of aging.” There is plenty of reason to be optimistic: Government programs are addressing falls as a public-health issue, and caregivers can take simple steps to reduce risks in the home.

For caregivers, a good place to start is the causes of falling in older adults. Knowing what the greatest risks are can help you more effectively prevent them from falling. The Council on Aging has plenty of helpful tips for helping your loved ones prevent falls. Here’s what the Council says:

1. Talk to your loved one about the risks of falling.

2. Encourage seniors to talk to their health care providers to assess fall risk.

3. Stay informed about your loved one’s current health conditions, and whether they are experiencing any vision, hearing, or balance changes.

4. Talk to seniors about the medications they are taking and any side effects.

5. Make sure your loved one gets regular eye and hearing checkups.

The nice thing about Nevada is that you can walk and hike almost year-round, except when the snow lingers.

But sneakers are not good for anything rocky or slippery. Top-of-the-ankle boots are safer, as are the adjustable hiking poles. They are just like ski poles but extend or retract. And with them in hand, it’s like having three legs for those points where you have to reach up to the next step.

Next week I’d like to bring seniors up to date on how skis have changed since they quit skiing and are thinking of taking up the sport again. Like “rocker” skis that are suddenly so popular — for good reasons.

Sam Bauman writes about senior issues for the Nevada Appeal.

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The Nevada Appeal Updated Oct 8, 2013 12:07AM Published Oct 8, 2013 12:07AM Copyright 2013 The Nevada Appeal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.