Carl is a 74-year-old Medicare beneficiary. Last year he had a tumble. He bruised his hip and wound up spending a night in the hospital and a week in assisted living until he was able to move around on his own without pain. He is just one of many Medicare beneficiaries who have preventable injuries, including falls, each year.
“Experts say that cognitive decline among seniors is a pressing health care issue and a key risk factor for falls,” notes Alan Weinstock an insurance broker at MedicareSupplementPlans.com. “Medicare spends billions each year to treat preventable injuries incurred by aging Medicare beneficiaries. And falls are part of those preventable injuries.”
Research on the Impact of Falls on Seniors
An article entitled, “Study Finds Strength Training for Seniors Provides Cognitive Function, Economic Benefits,” tells of a one-year study on seniors who participated in a strength training program. What they found was that the program provided sustained cognitive benefits in addition to health care savings. The study, conducted in British Columbia, found that approximately 30 percent of British Columbia seniors experience a fall each year. Fall-related hip fractures account for more than 4,000 injuries each year at a cost of $75 million to the health care system.
In addition, a June 2010 report entitled, “Analysis of Medicare Policy in Relation to Preventing Falls among Older Adults,” suggests that preventing falls is a “complex, multi-factorial, social and health problem. It is not a discrete incident, but rather part of an ongoing process that is more like a chronic disease that must be managed.”
Providing Assistance to Medicare Beneficiaries
The frequency of falls increases with age and frailty level, so seniors – whether on Medicare or not – are at risk. In fact, according to the World Health Organization’s report “WHO Global Report on Falls Prevention in Older Age,” approximately 28% to 35% of people age 65 and over fall each year. That increases to 32% to 42% for those over 70 years of age.
There are steps seniors and their care providers can take toward prevention. First, home assessments along with accompanying modifications, if needed; assistive devices for activities of daily living; and protective devices can help to mitigate the risk of falls and fractures. In addition to this seniors should consider the aforementioned strength training.
Next, Medicare offers coverage for bone mass measurements that would screen for osteoporosis. However, Medicare does not cover prescription medications, nutrition counseling, or strength training that could increase bone mass and reduce the risk of fractures.
Another step Medicare beneficiaries should take is to start a dialog with their care providers. It is particularly important for physicians to make a habit of asking their older patients whether they have experienced any falls. Sometimes physical problems are a root cause. Things such as poor vision, balance difficulty that affects walking, general physical instability, or side effects from medication that may cause drowsiness or dizziness may be the cause.
Finally, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) includes provisions favorable to fall prevention efforts: a new Medicare preventive benefit. It authorizes an annual preventive care visit along with a personal prevention plan.
The best Medicare Supplemental Insurance is one that provides full security to the people and hence is called Medigap, Medicare supplemental plans should be beneficial for the people.
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