Don’t be the fall guy

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Falls cost big bucks. Hold onto your hat and your handrail because it’s unlikely your retirement budget includes enough to pay for you to recover from a fall.

The National Council on Aging reports that in 2011:

  • Treating older adults who fell incurred $36.4 billion just in medical costs.
  • Medicare paid for 78 percent of these costs.
  • Medicare costs in the year after the fall averaged $12,150 to $18,009.
The cost of preventing falls is cheap by comparison. For instance, in November, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services calculated that a program that taught people to manage falls indirectly saved $938 in medical costs per participant annually. It also pointed out that a program to teach older people tai chi, which improves balance, resulted in savings of $1.60 in medical costs for every $1 spent on the program.

How to prevent a fall

Here are some tips to avoid being the retirement planning fall guy, thanks to Mike Ross, exercise physiologist at Gottlieb Center for Fitness, part of Loyola University Health System:
  • Wear shoes that fit and give you traction in wet or slick weather.
  • Keep your ice melt and supplies such as sand and a shovel in the house. During bad weather, if you have to leave the house to get your shovel, you might fall on the way.
  • Tighten the railings. If you fell on the steps, would they support you?
  • Don’t leave home without your cellphone. If you fall, you can call immediately for help.
  • Slow down. Don’t rush, and watch where you are going. It’s better to get there late than never.
  • Ask for help. If you think you could use a little assistance getting to the car or down steep steps or across uneven terrain, don’t be shy. Ask.
  • Make a plan. Ask yourself before you walk out the door, “If I were to fall, what would I do?”
  • Be strong. Exercising your legs can make a big difference. Simple exercises include walking up and down the steps in your home several times a day and doing sets of 10 squats while hanging onto a sturdy chair a couple of times a week.