Taking a Stand to Prevent Falls

falls prevention video

Many people take a stand on health and social issues. This year's falls prevention theme is "Take a Stand to Prevent Falls." With the first day of fall just around the corner, falls should not be "just around the corner" for older adults.

A significant problem with a huge impact

There are many components to falls prevention, but the most important thing is having the courage to admit that our vision has changed or that we feel a little unsteady on our feet and may need assistance with walking. One in every three Washington state residents age 65 and older falls each year. Less than half of those who fall talk to their doctors about it, even though fall rates increase sharply with advancing age.

Falls can take a serious toll on an older adult's independence and quality of life. Last year, 18 percent of King County Emergency Medical Services' 911 calls from older adults were for fall-related incidents. In 2012, falls accounted for 72 percent of all injury hospitalizations for King County residents age 60 and older.

Falling can lead to premature institutionalization. Among those who were hospitalized due to a fall, only 22 percent were able to return directly home. In 2008, among older Washington state residents who were hospitalized for a fall, 53 percent were discharged to skilled nursing facilities for additional care.

Falls Prevention Awareness Day

The national Falls Prevention Awareness Day is September 23—the first day of fall. Washington State Governor Jay Inslee has declared September 21–25 as Falls Prevention Awareness Week. The goal is to bring greater attention to preventive measures that can keep older people safe. Safety and security are basic human needs. When we feel safe, our lives are more relaxed and productive.

Community Resources

The recent United States of Aging Survey polled older adults to find out about how they are preparing for their later years. It found that more than half of seniors questioned said they would be interested in the expansion of community-based health promotion programs, including falls prevention classes.

At senior centers and other community-based organizations across the United States, programs like A Matter of Balance, Enhanced Wellness, Stay Active and Independent for Live (SAIL), and Tai Chi: Moving for Better Balance TM, help older adults gain strength, improve balance, and build confidence to help them live safer, healthier lives and preserve their independence.

Free in-home assessments for high-risk elders

King County Emergency Medical Services (EMS) and local fire departments collaborate on the One Step Ahead Fall Prevention Program, which works to identify older adults at highest risk of serious injury due to falls. Once high-risk persons have been identified, EMS will provide free in-home assessments and make recommendations to improve safety. To qualify, you must be a King County resident age 50 or older at high risk for falls. Low-income individuals may be eligible for installation of fall safety devices. Call King County EMS at 206-263-8544 for more information on eligibility or to schedule an appointment.

Remember—falls are preventable!
Please join us and take a stand to prevent falls!

Click on the graphic at the top of this page to watch a two-minute video on Safety Tips: Preventing Falls at Home.


Contributors Karen Winston and Mary Pat O'Leary are planners at Aging and Disability Services. For more information, visit our Falls Prevention webpage.

Steps can you take to prevent falls

 

Studies show that a combination of behavior changes can significantly reduce falls among older adults. Experts recommend the following:

•    Participate in a physical activity regimen with balance, strength training, and flexibility components.
•    Consult with a health professional about getting a fall risk assessment.
•    Have medications reviewed periodically.
•    Get eyes and ears checked annually.
•    Make sure the home environment is clutter-free, safe and supportive.

Aging and Disability Services offers a self-management plan for falls prevention. Click on the images below to view and print the one that works best for you (four pages). Visit our Improve Health Care webpage to see other self-management plans for common chronic conditions.