The Dallas Morning News had an interesting article about new advancements in the field of fall prevention.  The article talks about a new business called Slip Doctors.  They treat floors with a chemical that will make floors more resistant to slips, slides and falls.  Slip Doctors also use a high-tech robot that scoots across the floor of a home or senior-living community and identifies slick spots. Slip Doctors joins an industry springing up from people’s concern over falling.   Aside from promoting longer lives and greater independence, the new efforts to prevent falls may help control health care costs as the oldest boomers qualify for Medicare in about a year.

Every year, about a third of Americans 65 and older fall, and about a third of those who lose their footing require medical treatment, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  More than 1.8 million older adults are treated annually in emergency departments for injuries from falls, 433,000 are admitted to hospitals and 16,000 die because of their injuries, the agency reports.   More than $19 billion is spent annually on treating seniors who fall. Without better prevention, that cost is projected to escalate to $43.8 billion a year by 2020, and Medicare will pay for most of it.

"The good news is that we can reduce the risk of falling. It doesn’t have to be an inevitable part of growing old," said Lynn Beattie, vice president of injury prevention at the National Council on Aging.

 At the University of Texas at Arlington, researchers are putting older adults through a battery of tests to determine their risk of falling and to teach them to maintain their balance.  Patricia Elder, a 63-year-old Grand Prairie resident who worries about tripping because of her poor eyesight, held her ground by shifting her weight when she took the test.

Dallas-based AT&T Inc. and 24eight LLC of New York are working on a high-tech monitoring system that will signal caregivers when it detects someone is at risk of falling.  The system will use a shoe insole with built-in sensors that track changes in the wearer’s gait, said Bob Miller, executive director of AT&T’s communications technology research department.  "If, for example, someone becomes dizzy because of a bad reaction to medication, we should be able to detect the unsteady walk and alert caregivers in time to head off trouble," he said.  Texas Tech University will begin testing the monitoring system at a geriatric care center in Lubbock in about a month, Miller said. He expects the technology to be on the market within two years.

Low-tech approaches are also reducing older adults’ risk of tumbling.  Many home health care agencies are creating services tailored to fall victims.  Gentiva Health Services, a national home health care company, aggressively markets its "Safe Strides" program.  A therapist evaluates each patient and designs an in-home exercise program to improve balance. The home is also checked for hazards, and medications are reviewed for possible side effects.

Older adults can significantly lower their risk of falling if they make better use of "old technology" such as walkers and canes, said Candy Wade, who teaches "Matter of Balance" classes to Dallas area seniors.  Seniors sometimes borrow walkers or canes from friends, Wade said, which can be dangerous because a walking aid needs to be fitted to each person.

The industry that’s done the most to prevent falls is the one with the most to gain – long-term care providers such as nursing homes, assisted-living facilities and senior independent-living communities.  About 1,800 residents die each year from falls.


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