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National Falls Prevention Day

Posted Sep 21 2012 8:30am

category_bug_journal2.gif Here's a nice little pun for you: tomorrow, 22 September which is the first day of fall, has been declared by U.S. Senate Resolution 553 to be National Falls Prevention Awareness Day.

That's not really news. The Senate votes the Resolution every year but even though it's routine, it is a good annual reminder to be sure we have done all we can to prevent falling. Here is why this is so important to us personally and collectively:

One-third of all Americans age 65 and older fall each year.

More than 95 percent of hip fractures are caused by falls.

Men are more likely than women to die from a fall. After taking age into account, the fall death rate in 2009 was 34% higher for men than for women.

In 2010, 2.3 million nonfatal fall injuries among older adults were treated in emergency departments and more than 662,000 of these patients were hospitalized.

Falls are the leading cause of injury deaths among elders.

In 2009, about 20,400 older adults died from unintentional fall injuries.

In 2007, there were 281,000 hospital admissions for hip fractures among people age 65 and older. Twenty percent of hip fracture patients die within a year of their injury.

In a study of people age 72 and older, the average health care cost of a fall injury totaled $19,440, which included hospital, nursing home, emergency room and home health care but not doctors’ services.

In 2010, the direct medical costs of falls, adjusted for inflation, was $30.0 billion.

Most falls can be prevented but we need to make some adjustments to our lives to keep ourselves and others safe. Here is a good general list:

  1. Exercise. It makes you stronger and improves balance.

  2. Get up slowly after you have been sitting or lying down which can sometimes make you dizzy.

  3. Have your vision checked every year. If you can't see well, you have a higher risk of falling.

  4. Ask your physician or pharmacist about the drugs you use – prescription and over-the-counter. Some can cause sleepiness and dizziness that can lead to falling.

  5. Do a safety assessment of your home.

There is a long list of measures you can take to help fall-proof your home. Among them:

Increase the lighting; no dark areas or corners

Two secure railings on all stairways

Grab bars in the tub, shower and next to the toilet

Always wear shoes with non-skid soles – even indoors

Remove all throw rugs

Immediately wipe up all spills

Install nightlights to lead you to the bathroom

Use non-skid mats in the shower and on the bathroom floor

Remove clutter from floors to prevent tripping

That list is nowhere near complete. There is a thorough section on fall prevention at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and here is the home page of their excellent section of elders and falls.

The National Council on Aging (NCOA) also has a good section of falls prevention.

If you think you might be at risk for falling and particularly if you live alone, don't be shy (or stupid) about subscribing to a medical alert service. There are many of them and they are becoming more sophisticated and useful all the time. Just Google “medical alert services” for a large list of links.

One important caveat: not all such services are as reliable as you would want. Before you choose one, use the internet to find reviews and recommendations from other users.

If you think I'm making too much of this (I post a similar story here at least once a year), scroll up to the top and read those statistics again.

At our ages, a couple of seconds of inattention or lack of preventive measures can lead to a fall that would leave us crippled and dependent or even kill us. Common-sense precautions can save our lives.

There is no story at The Elder Storytelling Place today. New ones will resume on Monday

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