The Full Cost of Senior Falls

The Full Cost of Senior Falls

Many seniors are afraid of falling, and why wouldn’t they be? Falls are the top cause of traumatic brain injuries and are responsible for 95% of hip fractures. More than one in four elderly adults in the United States falls down every year, and once someone has fallen, the risk of falling again doubles.1

It might seem easy to imagine the financial strain that comes from a fall, especially one that results in a severe injury. But money isn’t the only consideration. There are costs that can’t be quantified, such as the emotional and psychological price paid by the injured senior and their concerned family. In 2018, 36 million seniors reported falls that led to 8 million significant injuries, according to STEADI (Stopping Elderly Accidents, Deaths, and Injuries). By 2050, that number is expected to jump to 52 million falls among the elderly, with 12 million injuries resulting.

As that number goes up, so should seniors’ attention to fall prevention. Aging in place home modifications are a very good idea as the years go by; an aging in place specialist can help you incorporate everything from ramps to grab bars. Using a medical alert pendant or wristband can help boost confidence by assuring you that help is always at your fingertips. A good exercise plan can help you stay strong, and eating healthy foods can help you avoid malnutrition and some of the other conditions that might lead to a greater risk of falls.

The Staggering Cost of Fall Injuries

The medical costs and lost wages for falls that occur among the elderly every year can be staggering. Each year, about $754 million is spent on fatal falls, according to the CDC. A whopping $50 billion is spent on the medical costs alone when someone suffers a significant injury after a serious fall. Out of that amount, $29 billion is paid by Medicare, $12 billion comes from private insurance or those who pay out of pocket for their care, and $9 billion is paid by Medicaid.2

Keep in mind that these costs include the bills for visiting the emergency department, hospitalization in a hospital, rehabilitation center or nursing home, the services of doctors and other medical professionals, therapy services to get you back on your feet, the use of medical equipment, prescription drugs to fight pain and other ailments as a result of the fall, and even the cost of insurance processing.

But there are other costs that can’t truly be quantified.

These costs include the long-term problems fall injuries can cause, such as being dependent upon others, the lost wages a family caregiver incurs as they care for their injured loved one, and the disability a senior might face in the future.

An elderly adult with a fracture can be out of commission for months. This is especially true if their surgery for hip replacement or repair is complicated by underlying conditions, such as diabetes or high blood pressure. Unfortunately, many of those who suffer a hip fracture won’t regain the same level of independence they had before the fall.

The best course of action is to do everything you possibly can to prevent a fall in the first place. The use of a fall detection alarm can’t necessarily stop you from falling, but it can definitely help you prevent what doctors call “the long lie.” Lying on the floor for an extended period of time after a fall can result in a wide variety of secondary problems, such as muscle breakdown, hypothermia, significant pain, confusion and disorientation, dehydration, and other issues. Generally speaking, the faster you can get help, the better your recovery will be.

If you have a medical alert system right at your fingertips, you can avoid the consequences of a long lie on the floor and be rest assured that help will get there quickly.

The Hidden Costs of Falls

The cost of falls takes a heavy toll on individuals and families. Here are just some of the ways the costs add up:

·        Medical expenses. Though we already looked at the enormous cost of falls as it relates to Medicare, Medicaid, and insurance, there is a cost that trickles down to each and every family. Even if basic medical expenses seem to be completely covered on paper, in reality it doesn’t quite work out that way. For instance, you might have physical therapy covered by insurance or Medicare, but what about the grab bars that are now a necessity near the toilet to provide the support you need to stand? That is an out-of-pocket expense that you likely didn’t expect and those small surprises can add up quickly.

·        Rehabilitation costs. What it takes to recover from a serious fall varies from one person to another, but almost always includes some type of physical therapy. Occupational therapy might be necessary to learn how to live in a different way, and speech therapy could be required for those who have had a traumatic brain injury and lost the ability to speak well as a result. Many private insurance companies cover only a certain number of sessions, and that might not be enough to get you back to your best condition.

·        Modifying the home. Making your home safer is an essential part of fall recovery. We already mentioned the potential need for grab bars in the home, but there could be more required to keep your home safe. For instance, if you must use a wheelchair for a while, a ramp that allows you to get into the house could be a necessity. If your home has standard doorways, you might need a contractor to widen them to make room for a wheelchair. None of these costs are covered by insurance or Medicare.

·        Caregiving expenses. If the injury is serious and the recovery is long, a family caregiver might leave work to assist their loved one or may need to hire some outside help. Professional caregiving can be an expensive but necessary proposition.

·        Long-term care expenses. Some of those who suffer a serious fall never fully recover and move into a nursing home or assisted care facility for the rest of their golden years. According to the Genworth Cost of Care Survey, the average cost of assisted living is $4,500 per month, while the cost of a private room in a nursing home can run an average of $9,034 per month.3 That cost might be even higher if a person needs skilled nursing care around the clock to deal with the consequences of a serious fall, such as struggling with recovery from a traumatic brain injury. In comparison, affordable medical alert systems are an incredible option for senior safety.

·        Other health problems. Injuries that require ongoing medical care can also lead to other conditions as well. For example, one issue might be an exacerbated loss of muscle mass because a person is unable to exercise like they used to, and that loss of muscle can lead to a higher risk of falls.

·        Loss of confidence. When you suffer a fall, you might be understandably frightened of it happening again. As your confidence diminishes, your odds of falling go up. That’s because you will begin to second-guess yourself as you move around. A medical alert device might restore some of that confidence by assuring you that help is only a touch away.

·        Loss of independence. As you recover from a fracture, traumatic brain injury, or soft tissue damage, you might find it difficult to perform the day-to-day activities that you used to take for granted. A good example is being able to handle personal hygiene. A fractured shoulder might mean you can’t move your arms or hands as well, and that can cause trouble when it’s time to bathe. This loss of independence can be frustrating – and expensive.

·        Psychological fallout. Anxiety is almost a given after a serious fall, because you might be afraid of falling down again. But other problems can pop up too, such as depression as a result of losing your independence, worsening cognitive problems (especially for those who already had dementia), an inability to concentrate, emotional outbursts, dealing with pain that can lead to a feeling of helplessness, and so much more. There might also be many layers of guilt for needing more help from a caregiver or for falling in the first place. Ruminating on what’s happened and how life looks now can bring you down quickly and keep you in a dark, negative place. Any of these issues might lead to a need for counseling. 

Sadly, a senior’s quality of life might suffer after a serious fall. The fear of falling again can lead to depression, anxiety, and even social isolation, as you might be hesitant to go out into the world and do things with others. The less you move around, the more your mobility becomes compromised. It turns into a vicious cycle – and it all began with a hard fall.

Protect your peace of mind with an emergency button alarm with fall detection. If a fall does occur, the tiny fall sensors in the device can automatically alert a 24/7 manned monitoring center on your behalf, even without your needing to press the button yourself.

A senior life-saving alert system can work wonders for ensuring that you never have to lie on the floor for hours or even days, waiting for help to arrive. That quick response can improve the likelihood of a better outcome and significantly reduce the costs of falls, both those that are monetary and those that are psychological. Alert1 wishes you abundant health and safety!