First Day of Fall Brings Renewed Emphasis on Fall Prevention
The first day of fall means more than just a changing of seasons. It means a renewed emphasis on raising awareness about how to prevent and reduce falls among older adults. That’s why 48 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico took part in the 2015 National Falls Prevention Awareness Day. This year’s event is held on September 22.
For many professionals who provide support and services to older Americans, the emphasis extends well beyond the fall equinox.
“Autumn is the perfect time to focus on fall prevention,” said Barbara Boon McGinnis, Attorney at Elder Law Practice of Timothy L. Takacs in Hendersonville. “Falls are the leading cause of injury related deaths of older adults, the primary reason for older adult injury emergency department visits, and the most common cause of hospital admissions for trauma. Many people don’t realize that falls often mark the beginning of an older person’s long-term care journey.”
McGinnis cited the following statistics:
- Every 15 seconds, an older adult is treated in the emergency room for a fall; every 29 minutes, an older adult dies following a fall.
- One in three community-dwelling persons over the age of 65 falls each year, and this number increases to one in two by the age of 80. Fall-related injuries are often serious enough to result in hospitalization and even premature death.
- Among older adults, falls are the leading cause of fractures, hospital admissions for trauma, and injury deaths. Falls are the most common cause of older adult traumatic brain injuries, accounting for over 46% of fatal falls.
- Falls result in more than 2.8 million injuries treated in emergency departments annually, including over 800,000 hospitalizations and more than 27,000 deaths.
- In 2013, the total cost of fall injuries was $34 billion. This financial toll is expected to increase as the population ages and may reach $67.7 billion by 2020.
Falls, with or without injury, also carry a heavy quality of life impact. A growing number of older adults fear falling and, as a result, limit their activities and social engagements. This can result in further physical decline, depression, isolation, and feelings of helplessness.
The good news is that most falls can be prevented. “By identifying personal risk factors and eliminating as many of them as possible, older Americans can greatly improve their chances for staying independent and on their feet,” said McGinnis, who offered the following tips for fall prevention.
Check beliefs and attitudes about falling: Many seniors subscribe to common myths such as “falling is just a normal part of growing old.” In fact, falling isn’t a normal or inevitable part of getting older. People fall for many reasons and usually it is a combination of risk factors that led to the fall. Many seniors believe that staying home and limiting activities will protect them when the opposite is actually true. Limiting activity often leads to weakened muscles which actually increase the risk of falls.
Check physical fitness: Lack of exercise can lead to weak muscles, decreased flexibility and low endurance. Seniors are encouraged to get the go-ahead from their doctors and then start a fitness program. No special equipment or gym memberships are required. Find convenient online exercise options at http://go4life.nia.nih.gov/.
Check vision: Getting eyes checked is essential to make sure that you are seeing clearly.
Check “fall-ty” behaviors: Seniors who make a habit of rushing to answer doors, wearing ill-fitting shoes or slippers, or standing on a chair to reach high shelves put themselves at increased risk. Limit exposure to falls by taking your time, wearing sturdy footwear and asking someone to move items within reach.
Check the home for hazards: Quick and easy fixes include clearing pathways of clutter, removing or securing scatter rugs, and installing grab bars in the bathroom and anywhere else that where a little extra support can help. Visit https://www.securitychoice.com/resources/20-tips-for-home-safety/ to view potential dangers and get helpful tips.
Sign up for A Matter of Balance: This nationally recognized program reduces the fear of falling and increases activity levels. Classes are held once a week for eight weeks at convenient community locations. The Greater Nashville Regional Council Area Agency on Aging and Disability offer the workshop series in Nashville and multiple counties in Middle Tennessee. Visit www.gnrc.org or call (615) 255-1010 or (877) 973-6467.