by Phoebe Smith, MPT
September 18, 2018
Falls are no fun. Falls can cause broken bones, hospitalizations, decreased independence and even death. As we age, we need to do everything within our power to stay strong and avoid falling. The consequences of not protecting ourselves are devastating and potentially life-threatening.
• Every 11 seconds, an older adult is seen in an emergency department for a fall-related injury.
• 1 in 4 Americans aged 65+ falls each year.
• Every 19 minutes an older adult dies from a fall.
• In 2013, the total cost of fall injuries was $34 billion (78% paid by Medicare).
• This total cost may reach $67.7 billion by 2020.
Even falls without injury can cause fear of falling, leading to physical decline, depression and social isolation.
September 22, 2018 is the 10th annual National Falls Prevention Awareness Day, sponsored by the National Council on Aging. The 6 steps recommended by the National Council on Aging to prevent falls are:
1) Find a good balance and exercise program that will help build balance, strength and flexibility. .
Stepping Out Strong is a one-hour presentation on exercise and fall prevention on September 24 at 10:30 am at the Humboldt Senior Resource Center (call 443-9747 to register).
LOCAL ONGOING CLASSES:
SAIL (Stay Active and Independent for Life). Contact the Area One Agency on Aging (442-3719) or check their website to find a schedule of SAIL classes. SAIL is an evidence-based fall prevention program developed by the University of Washington. Classes are offered in McKinleyville, Freshwater, Eureka, Fortuna, Ferndale and Redway. The classes are two or three days a week for one hour. No experience is necessary. Classes are free or by donation.
TAI CHI: MOVING FOR BETTER BALANCE
12-week course based on the Chinese martial art of Tai Chi. Contact County of Humboldt Older Adults Fall Prevention Program (445-6025).
2) Talk to your health care provider.
Ask for an assessment of your risk for falling. Share your history of recent falls. Request a referral to a physical therapist for strength and balance training if you are at risk for falling.
3) Regularly review your medications with your doctor or pharmacist.
Make sure side effects aren’t increasing your risk for falling. Some high-risk medications are used to treat blood pressure, pain and anxiety.
4) Get your vision and hearing checked every year.
Be sure to keep your glasses clean as well.
5) Keep your home safe.
Remove clutter and tripping hazards, leave plenty of open space for walking through your home, increase lighting, install handrails by all stairs and steps and install grab bars in your bathroom shower and near your toilet if needed.
6) Talk to your family members.
Enlist their help in taking simple steps to stay safe. Hold a helper’s arm on steps, curbs or uneven terrain. Accept help taking your walker or cane with you on an outing. Ask for help installing grab bars or other home safety items.
The good news is that many falls are preventable with proactive attention to your heath, fitness and home environment. Learn all you can about home safety, medication safety and join a class to improve your strength and balance so you can age gracefully without falling.
Report to Congress in November 2013: The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ Evaluation of Community-based Wellness and Prevention Programs under section 4202 (b) of the Affordable Care Act.
Phoebe Smith is a licensed physical therapist at Mad River Home Health. She also works for A1AA as a mentor for instructors in the SAIL (Stay Active and Independent for Life) program. firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo by Phoebe Smith, MPT: Susan Popenoe instructor in McKinleyville