Dr. Beth Hodges
Dr. Beth Hodges is a family practice and palliative care/hospice physician in Asheboro, N.C., as well as a part-time medical director for HealthTeam Advantage, HealthTeamAdvantage.com. She lives in Asheboro with her husband, three teenagers, three dogs, one cat, and 21 goldfish.
Ruth, a 72-year-old retired teacher, lives alone. Ruth country line dances a few times a month, gardens, and is active in her church. She considers herself healthy. One day Ruth slips in the shower and breaks her hip. After surgery and a short stay at a rehab facility, she returns home. She can’t use her second-floor bedroom because she can’t navigate the stairs yet, and she uses a rolling walker. Unfortunately, she lives in a rural area and can’t get to the grocery store.
Ruth is forced to give up her independence and move into assisted living. Her life is never quite the same.
How can you avoid this scenario?
Medicare recommends every Medicare recipient undergo a yearly Fall Risk Assessment. It can be done alone or as part of an Annual Wellness Visit. Some Medicare Advantage plans, also have wellness seminars and fitness classes focused on reducing the risks of falls.
There are several possible fixes to try to prevent falls and injuries, and you and your provider should come up with the best options for you.
Here are some common solutions:
- A referral to physical therapy to improve balance
- A home health evaluation (they can evaluate the home for possible fall risks and make recommendations. For example, a grab bar in the shower might have prevented Ruth’s broken hip.)
- Use of a rolling walker or a cane
- Changes in medications
Do you wonder how you’d score on a Fall Risk Assessment? Here is a modified quiz:
- Have you fallen multiple times in the past year?
- Do you feel unsteady when you walk?
- Have you been told you have problems with your memory?
- Are you sometimes incontinent?
- Are you on medications? (Note: do not stop any medications without first talking to your provider.)
If you answered yes to any of these questions, make an appointment to discuss your risk of falling with your provider. Remember: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!