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How Well Will New Medicare Options Help Backs...and Addiction?

Anyone living with or treating a senior with chronic back pain who's on Medicare should investigate a new treatment option: acupuncture.

Medicare's announced that it will allow doctors to prescribe this complementary treatment to patients with this specific pain. A report in McKnight's Long-Term Care News adds the sad stat: that between 2006 and 2014, ER visits "by seniors who misused opioids more than tripled."

Yes...TRIPLED. In OLDER Americans. Yet there is a still great neglect of this opioid-using segment in the media, by medical offices/hospitals, families and/or employers.

Falling Down is Rising

Another McKnight news item reported something I've been explaining to both consumers and health pros for over 20 years: the need for programs examining and training seniors on better balance. That's a major tool for minimizing falls.

In-home falls are already known to cause terrible injuries, even deaths, in older adults. One NIH study found that, "Annually, an estimated 37,991 adults age 65 years or older were treated in U.S. EDs for falls," and (not surprisingly) the majority of those falls--almost three-quarters (72%)--occur at home. The CDC reports, "Each year over 300,000 older people—those 65 and older—are hospitalized for hip fractures."

In this new trial, involving 30,000 residents of an "eldercare" community, the number of fallers was lessened by 36%--and that's when exercise was used as an initial intervention. People who were already recurrent fallers reduced ranks by 41%.

The program included training not only in balance, but other tools such as strength and resistance. One warning did come into play: those with cognitive impairment couldn't seem to handle the training.

We All Need Fall Fighting and Balance Guidelines

Of course, tripping and its related falls are not the only possible factor leading to opioid use, and opioids are not the only fall causation. Other drugs can cause falls, along with trip-enhancing dangers like wiring across floors and curled up, poorly placed, area rugs.

But since opioids are the issue getting national attention, tying fall prevention to that would probably gain study dollars. Enhanced recognition and treatment options for fighting seniors' falling could undoubtedly help decrease that drug's prescribing...and who knows what else it could fight?

There are already so many Americans doing so little walking, let alone other exercises that can help us with stamina, balance and leg strength. We really should all work on better balance throughout life; simple at-home exercises are a start.

We all need to seek, even demand, early fall recognition at work, at home, and certainly by medical professionals. (Hey politicians and insurers. Are you listening to this cost-cutting tool? The V.A. is already checking!) Such farsightedness can definitely protect falls and related injuries. Then who knows? Maybe it can reduce the number of seniors who'll be using opioids for pain relief.

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