More than one in four older adults in the U.S. report falling each year, according to the CDC, which translates to about 36 million falls. One out of five of those falls causes a serious injury such as broken bones or a head injury, and that can have a short-term or long-term impact on an older person’s ability to live independently.
Here’s the good news: Falls are not a normal part of aging and can be prevented.
“Daily exercise, avoiding certain medications that can affect your balance, and even making sure eyeglass lens prescriptions are up-to-date can help to prevent falls,” said Bruce Naughton, M.D., Excellus BlueCross BlueShield Medical Director for Medicare. “Discuss these things with your doctor.”
Naughton also advises checking your home for obvious tripping hazards.
- Worn carpets
- Stairs with poor railings
- Rooms with bad lighting
- Unstable chairs or tables
- Bathrooms that lack grab bars
- Uneven transitions between bare floors and carpets
The Timed Up and Go test, or TUG test, can predict your risk for falling.
“The TUG test is something that older adults can do in the comfort of their own homes to evaluate their basic mobility skills and risk of falling,” said Naughton. “You need a stopwatch or wristwatch with a second hand, a chair, and a friend to assist you.” Naughton advises wearing your regular footwear and using a walking aid, if needed.
How to take the “TUG” test:
- Mark a line on the floor that’s 10 feet away from the chair
- Sit in the chair
- When your assistant with the stopwatch says “go,” stand up from the chair
- Walk ten feet to the line on the floor at your normal pace
- Turn and walk back to the chair at your normal pace and sit down again
Your assistant should start timing on the word “go” and stop timing after you sit back down.
If you take 12 or more seconds to complete the TUG test, you might have a higher chance of falling and should seek your doctor’s advice on actions you can take to reduce the risk.
“Be honest with your doctor about issues with balance or concerns about taking a fall,” said Naughton. “Falling doesn’t have to be part of the aging process.”
Excellus BCBS has more information on fall prevention online at https://medicare.excellusbcbs.com/health-wellness/preventive/fall-prevention
Excellus BlueCross BlueShield, an independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, is a nonprofit health plan with 1.5 million upstate New York members. The company's mission is to help people live healthier and more secure lives through access to high-quality, affordable health care. Its products and services include cost-saving prescription drug discounts, wellness tracking tools and access to telemedicine. With more than 3,500 employees, the company is committed to attracting and retaining a diverse workforce to foster innovation and better serve its members. It also encourages employees to engage in their communities by providing paid volunteer time off as one of many benefits. To learn more, visit ExcellusBCBS.com.