Expert offers tips to prevent elderly injuries

The population in El Paso is getting older. According to the U.S. Census Bureau from 2010 to 2014 the senior population 65 years and above went up almost 1.5 percent.

UTEP professor Dr. Guillermina Solis says, the fall risk for the elderly increases as well as they get older.

The way Ms. Wilma Hubbard moves around, you’d never guess she’s 92-years-old.

“I've always done things. We used to dance. I never noticed getting old. I don’t really notice it now until my daughter tell me I am old,” said Hubbard.

Back in July, something happened that left this usually lively lady no choice but to hang up her dancing shoes.

"I got overbalanced and I just kept going back and my feet came out from under me” said Hubbard.

At first Hubbard thought the fall was no big deal, but then the pain set in.

“I spent about a month in bed because I could not navigate my feet”, said Ms. Hubbard.

She decided it was finally time to see her doctor.

"After i had x-rays and everything I had a fractured tailbone,” Hubbard.

Hubbard isn’t alone. Nurse Practitioner and UTEP Assistant Professor Dr. Guillermina Solis said falls among the elderly increase every year.

"In the year 2014 we had 3,300 calls from the emergency department that were related to falls,” said Dr. Solis.

Physical therapist Patrick Craig says the numbers nationally aren’t any better.

“Falls are the leading cause of injury in the elderly”, said Craig.

In fact, treatment for falls costs Medicare and Medicaid a lot of money every year.

“There are over $32 billion a year spent in Medicare costs related to falls”, said Solis.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention said that’s almost as much as was spent on cancer treatment last year.

The impact a fall can have an impact on a person’s physical and mental state.

“They lose mobility and as they get weaker they lose more mobility,” said Craig.

Solis said falls can even result in death for older patients.

"Out of the 172 cases that I reviewed of that there were two mortalities,” said Solis.

The biggest risk for women is a hip fracture.

"We know hip fractures can reduce the quality of life due to mobility problems and it’s associated with a high mortality rate within five years after the injury,” said Solis.

The biggest risk for a man is a head injury.

"Men tend to be more outdoors with height being a big problem with people getting up on the roof to fix it,” said Solis.

However, there are things you can do to prevent you or a loved one from suffering a fall like Hubbard.

"Make sure that the hallways are free of furniture so they don't bump into it and remind them to wear their corrective lenses even when they are at home,” said Solis.

"I have a little flashlight on the bed that I can always feel and find,” said Hubbard.

Ms. Hubbard also has life alert.

“An ambulance will be here in five minutes,” said Hubbard.

If all else fails, don’t be afraid to call in a professional like physical therapist Kevin Jones to set up special safety features in your home.

“Her restroom is safe. It has a walk-in shower. It’s not a tub because tubs are hard to get in and out of,” said Jones.

Jones has been working with Hubbard for the last three months.

"Ms Hubbard had a fall so first we did back protection exercises to try and reduce her pain and that way we could start working on her mobility,” said Jones.

Jones said Hubbard’s mobility has progressed tremendously. Pretty soon, he’s hoping she will be able to trade in her walker and stroll around with her cane.

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