A simple test can help identify individuals at risk for a fall. It’s called the Timed Up and Go test, or TUG test, and anyone can do it at home.
“Falls are not a normal part of aging and can be prevented,” says Excellus BlueCross BlueShield Medical Director Kelly Berchou, MD.
The TUG test requires a stopwatch or wristwatch with a second hand, a chair, and a friend to assist you. Most cell phones have a stopwatch feature. Wear regular footwear and use 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 friend 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
Start timing on the word “go” and stop timing after you sit back down (view an Excellus BCBS video demonstration of the TUG Test online.
If you take 12 or more seconds to complete the TUG test, you may have a higher chance of falling and should seek a health care provider’s advice on actions you can take to reduce the risk.
More than 1 in 4 older adults (28%) in the U.S. report falling each year, according to an Excellus BCBC review of the most recent data available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That translates to about 36 million falls each year, of which 36,000 result in death. Many who survive and recover from a fall lose the ability to live independently on a short- or long-term basis, and those who require medical treatment may incur substantial out-of-pocket costs. According to the CDC, falls among older adults result in $50 billion in annual medical spending, including $12 billion out-of-pocket.
“Daily exercise, avoiding certain medications that can affect your balance, and even making sure prescriptions for glasses or contacts are up to date can help to prevent falls,” says Dr. Berchou. She advises discussing these topics with your health care provider. She also recommends checking your home for obvious hazards, such as:
- Worn carpets
- Stairs with rickety railings
- Rooms with insufficient lighting
- Unstable chairs or tables
- Bathrooms lacking grab bars
- Uneven transitions between bare floors and carpets
“If you are concerned that you are at risk for experiencing a fall, reach out to your provider to discuss a fall prevention plan that is right for you,” says Berchou. “Don’t put your ability to live independently at risk, because falling doesn’t have to be a part of aging.”
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 4,200 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.