A single easily correctable condition can increase the risk of falls in the elderly three-fold and often more. Why do we choose to ignore it?
In today’s New York Times (Nov 2), reporter Katie Hafner writes a fascinating article on the ways nursing homes and facilities for the elderly are rethinking the risk of falls in their patients and residents.
The article includes several very interesting photo/graphics showing how the elderly with impaired vision see, say, a flight of carpeted stairs, and then another showing how the addition of a simple contrasting stripe on the stair can make the stair far more visible. There’s also a photo of a black toilet seat. It seems weird and even possibly unsanitary, but it helps older people know exactly where to sit.
Contrasting toilet seats can help prevent falls in the elderly. So can bold markings on carpeted staircases. Good!
But why do we focus solely on visual aids and ignore the well-documented benefit of hearing aids? Even mild hearing loss results in a three-fold greater risk of falls in the elderly, and the numbers go up with age.
Yet here is another article about falls in the elderly with not a single reference to hearing loss.
I would say this is shocking, but I’m ever more resigned to the fact that hearing loss is ignored almost universally, even though it affects 20 percent of Americans of all ages, and more than two-thirds of Americans 75 and over.
And it has a marked documented affect on physical and mental health, verified in one study after another.