Even though it was more than 30 years ago, I can still remember how frightened my grandmother was as we walked through the grocery story that day. We were in the produce section and there was a small, shallow, almost imperceivable streak of water in our path.
Her fear was not the puddle, but of the possibility she might slip and break something, particularly her hip. This is a fear I have heard many seniors express since that day, particularly as it relates to slipping on or tripping over something.
Despite that widespread fear, a recent study suggests slipping and tripping actually are not the primary culprits when it comes to falls among the older population. The primary reason is incorrect weight shifting, which accounted for 41 percent of falls suffered by seniors during the course of this three-year study.1 As it turns out, the biggest danger of falling was not on the wet floors my grandmother could see; it was in the musculoskeletal deficits she couldn't see. Needless to say, this is where chiropractic comes in.
This month, my mom turned 81. She is still very active and mobile. In fact, she is a shining example of the impact 60 years of chiropractic care can have on a person's vitality as they grow older. Not only can she walk through the grocery store with ease; she can make long treks across parking lots and soccer complexes to see her grandchildren's soccer games.
Retaining her mobility and independence continues to be a top priority for my mom. She enjoys her life and is an example to the other seniors she knows. Her active, independent lifestyle is not an accident. She goes in for regular chiropractic maintenance care, but also usually has one or two incidents a year when she seeks additional care for the occasional acute episode. This is par for the course at her age.
Our senior population is growing in size and age. They take their health seriously and have money to spend to maintain it. Unlike my grandmother, today's seniors are more health conscious, get massages and take their vitamins.
After financial security, quality of life matters more than anything else to older people. They are all too familiar with the side effects (including death) of the drugs they are being prescribed. While most take the prescribed drugs, they do so with a certain level of concern.
Our older population is a prime market for chiropractic, but reaching this segment requires us to reach out in ways that create relationships. Talking to children of older adults (your patients) about their aging parents is a good start. Doing short presentations for senior communities / clubs will go a long way in educating a generation that still has reservations about chiropractic. You will have to put yourself out there in order to build the trust required before they will utilize chiropractic care.
In the end, you may need to spend a little time creating relationships with other health care professionals who cater to seniors as well. Nursing-home directors and hospice administrators are probably good choices. You might be surprised at how receptive they will be to chiropractic, particularly once they realize your care can help their patients walk better and reduce the number of debilitating falls they suffer. (Feel free to share the study referenced below.)
Currently, there are more than 40 million people over the age of 65 in the United States. That's about one out of every seven members of our total population. Consider your practice in your community. Are you reaching this growing segment of our population at the level you could be? Perhaps this is a good time to consider brainstorming ways to increase your patient mix to include more seniors.
- Robinovitch SN, Feldman F, Yang Y, Schonnop R, Leung PM, Sarraf T, Sims-Gould J, Loughin M. Video capture of the circumstances of falls in elderly people residing in long-term care: an observational study. The Lancet, 2013 Jan 5;381(9860):47-54.
Click here for more information about Donald M. Petersen Jr., BS, HCD(hc), FICC(h), Publisher.