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For Release:  September 8, 2011 – Pamela Williams, Office of Communications – (405) 271-560

Preventing Falls in Older Persons Can Prevent Admissions to Care Facilities

A recent analysis of hospital discharge data shows that when persons age 65 or older fall and are hospitalized, less than half return home. Most of these persons are discharged to a nursing home, rehabilitation facility, or assisted living home due to their injuries. The Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) considers preventing falls a major public health issue and wants to raise the public awareness of older adults and their families and caregivers on ways to prevent falls. 

More than 14,000 persons age 65 and older were hospitalized for fall injuries during a two-year period from 2008 through 2009. During that same time period, 498 persons age 65 and older died as a result of a fall (preliminary data). Women age 65 and older were almost twice as likely as men to be hospitalized due to a fall.

As an individual ages, the risk of falling increases. Nationally, falls are the leading cause of nonfatal injury in all age groups, except 15-24 year olds. However, for persons age 65 and older, falls are the leading cause of non-fatal and fatal injury. Persons over age 80, regardless of gender, are most at-risk for injuries and deaths from falls.

Families and caregivers should be aware of the risk factors for falls, which include balance and mobility problems, medication side effects, uneven walking surfaces, obstacles in and around the home, lack of stair rails and poor lighting, unstable elevated work areas (like ladders), walking on ice, and having fallen previously.

“Preventing falls can prevent injuries and deaths, especially in adults over age 65. We are looking at ways for older adults to live safely at home and prevent fall injuries by taking some simple precautions,” said Sheryll Brown, acting chief of the OSDH Injury Prevention Service.

The OSDH Injury Prevention Service offers the following tips to help prevent falls:

  • Stay active by walking and exercising, eat a nutritious diet, and avoid being overweight.  
  • Do exercises to improve balance, and use a cane or walker while standing or walking if needed.
  • Get your ears and eyes checked regularly, and monitor your blood pressure.
  • Use caution when getting up from a sitting or lying position.
  • Talk to your doctor/pharmacist about medicines that may cause dizziness, nausea, or make you feel tired.
  • Avoid alcohol and drug use.
  • When shopping, attending church, or visiting other homes, wear appropriate shoes, hold onto rails, and use caution walking and climbing stairs.

Around the Home:

  • Make sure every room is well lit.
  • Make sure floors are free of obstacles and have even, non-slip surfaces.
  • Remove small carpets and electrical cords from the floor.
  • Staircases and steps should be well lit, in good repair, have a rail and be free of clutter.
  • Put frequently used items on shelves that can be reached easily without using a step stool.
  • Keep a telephone and any walking aids within easy reach.
  • Install a toilet that has a higher seat and safety rails.
  • Bathtubs or shower stalls should have non-slip mats.
  • Install grab bars in the shower, bath and toilet areas.
  • Use a bath transfer bench if you have difficulty climbing in or out of the bathtub.
  • Keep sidewalks clear and in good repair.
  • Keep the yard even and free of hoses, gardening materials, and any equipment.
  • Organize garages and tool sheds to be easily accessible and clear of obstacles or debris.
  • Do not go out on ice unless absolutely necessary. Wear appropriate footgear and carry a cell phone when outside or walking in bad weather.
  • Avoid slippery surfaces.

For more information on how to prevent falls, contact the OSDH Injury Prevention Service at (405) 271-3430 or visit http://ips.health.ok.gov .

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