Wisconsin has the nation’s highest rate of deadly falls among older adults, outnumbering deaths from breast and prostate cancers combined. Several factors may explain the bleak statistics, including heavy alcohol use and icy winters. Even so, the health care community is engaged in ways to address the problem, including actions seniors can take themselves. State Journal reporter David Wahlberg details the problem in this special report.
Experts cite a few possibilities: icy winters; excessive drinking; the population is older and whiter than the U.S. average; and officials here might report falls better.
Providers ask about patients’ home environments, assess their gait, order lab tests if needed and discuss medication, vision and other risk factors.
Operators say there is a fine line between protecting residents’ safety and their autonomy — especially in assisted living, which is designed for people who aren’t as feeble as those in nursing homes and has fewer regulations.
“Our gut says, ‘We shouldn’t let them walk,' ” a UW professor says. “But if we don’t let them walk, they’re just going to get worse.”
Classes, home assessments and medication reviews are key ways seniors can reduce their chances of falling in their homes, where more than half of the state’s deadly falls among the elderly occur.