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Media Contact: Cheryl Monkhouse
(404) 842-8516
cheryl.monkhouse@bcbsga.com

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia Offers Seven Simple Tips for Preventing a Costly Fall

ATLANTA – May 11, 2011 – Every year, one in three people ages 65 years old and older has a fall, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The risk increases with age and can lead to serious injury, including hip fractures and head injuries, as well as hospitalization, loss of independence and even death. Fortunately, there are ways to limit the risk of a fall for yourself and a loved one.

Falls can be costly, both physically and economically.

In 2008, emergency departments across the country treated 2.1 million people who were injured in a fall, according to the CDC. More than 559,000 of those people required hospitalization as a result of their injuries, the CDC says. Falls not only affect the injured, but also caregivers, family members and even entire communities.

According to the CDC, $19 billion is spent on medical care related to falls, excluding family caregiving, home care, loss of productivity and the costs of remodeling a home to make it safer. By 2020, the annual direct and indirect costs of falls are expected to reach $54.9 billion.

“This is a very serious issue for people as they age,” said Krista Bowers, senior vice president of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia (BCBSGa)’s parent company, which serves thousands of Georgia seniors through its health care plans. “Chances are you know someone in your own family who has been impacted. Falls are unpredictable. The trigger can be anything from an adverse drug interaction to a loose rug. The consequences can be life interrupting.”

Falling does not have to be an inevitable result of aging. There are a number of ways to protect yourself or a loved one, according to the experts, including the CDC and The National Council on Aging. Some tips include the following:

1. Exercise regularly. Physical activity increases balance, strength and flexibility. Some insurers offer a gym membership at no additional cost as part of their Medicare Advantage plans. People with this benefit should make sure to take advantage of it.

2. Schedule an appointment with a primary care physician (PCP) for a medication review. Older people tend to take more medications than younger people. This increases their risk of adverse drug interactions, including side effects like dizziness and drowsiness that can lead to falls. A PCP can help by reviewing a person’s medications for possible interactions, including over-the-counter medicines. In addition, Medicare prescription drug plans offer a service under which certain qualifying at-risk beneficiaries can have their medications reviewed by a clinician at no extra cost.

3. Have a vision checkup. Vision problems, including issues such as poor depth perception, can lead to falls. Those with glasses should wear them at all times, especially when getting up during the night. Some Medicare Advantage plans have a vision benefit. Others offer a vision benefit at an additional cost. With or without this benefit, seniors should get their eyes checked regularly to see if there have been any vision changes.

4. Remove obstacles from around the home. Data compiled by the National Health Interview Surveys indicate that 55 percent of all injuries among older people occurred inside the home. An additional 23 percent occurred outside, but near the house. Many of these falls can be prevented by eliminating hazards such as clutter, poor lighting, loose rugs, etc., and/or adding safety features, such as grab bars and railings.

5. Wear low-heeled rubber-soled shoes. Slippers are slippery. Ditch them in favor of athletic shoes, which may help to improve balance. According to research from the Institute for Aging Research, falls are much less likely to occur to those who wear athletic shoes compared to those who go barefooted or wear only socks or slippers.

6. Use a cane, walker or other device if needed to prevent falls. Doctors can prescribe durable medical equipment for their patients in need. Most of the costs of such equipment may be covered by Medicare if medically necessary, as long as it is purchased or rented through an approved supplier that accepts Medicare assignment. Supplemental insurance may cover additional costs.

7. Take advantage of disease management programs offered through an insurer. Some Medicare Advantage plans offer programs that identify those at risk of falling and suggest possible precautions for avoiding a fall.

“In the past, falls probably haven’t gotten as much attention as they warranted, considering their impact,” added Dr. Robert McCormack, Medical Director, BCBSGa. “Thankfully, that is changing. Many people are now working to raise awareness of the dangers of falls, including the Centers for Disease Control, the American Geriatric Society; the National Council on Aging and even the U.S. Senate, which passed a resolution establishing a day dedicated to falls prevention.”

“Thankfully, there are many resources available to lessen an individual’s risk of falling,” adds Dr. McCormack. “The key is education; learning about these things and implementing them to stop a fall before it happens. Additionally, seniors should be aware that a fall could be an indicator of an underlying medical condition that could warrant evaluation by a physician.”

For more information about fall prevention, visit the National Council on Aging’s falls website at www.ncoa.org/improving-health/falls-prevention/. The group counts Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia’s parent company among its sponsors.

This information is intended for educational purposes only and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider for advice about treatments that may affect your health.

About Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia, Inc. and Blue Cross Blue Shield Healthcare Plan of Georgia, Inc. are independent licensees of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association. The Blue Cross Blue Shield names and symbols are registered marks of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. Additional information about Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia is available at www.bcbsga.com.. Also, follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/healthjoinin, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/HealthJoinInBCBSGa or visit our YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/healthjoinin.

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