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For Release: June 17, 2010
Contact:  Pamela Williams
Office of Communications
(405) 271-5601

Preventing Falls Can Prevent Unintentional Injuries and Deaths in Older Adults  
Gov. Henry Proclaims June 22, 2010, “Older Adult Fall Prevention Awareness Day”

Preventing falls can prevent unintentional injuries and deaths, especially in adults over age 65. Falls are the number one cause of unintentional injury death in adults over age 65. In 2008, nearly 200 Oklahomans over age 65 died as a result of falling.

Gov. Brad Henry has proclaimed June 22, 2010, “Older Adult Fall Prevention Awareness Day” to coincide with Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) Injury Prevention Service’s “Older Adult Fall Prevention” Symposium that day. The day-long symposium will be held at the University of Oklahoma Medical Center in Oklahoma City with professionals from different organizations statewide that work with the 65 and older population. Topics of discussion will include the magnitude of fall-related injuries among older adults in Oklahoma, evidence-based fall prevention programs, and how medications, exercise and other health conditions affect the risk of falling. The group will also discuss strategies to form a state fall prevention coalition to help address this issue in Oklahoma.

Oklahoma is home to more than 497,750 adults over age 65. In any given year, about one in three of these adults falls. These falls can lead to severe injuries including hip fractures and traumatic brain injuries. In Oklahoma, nearly 11,000 adults were hospitalized in 2008 dues to falls. In that year, falls accrued nearly $300 million in hospital charges, most of which were paid by Medicare.

Falls can also result in persons having a fear of falling again, which causes many to limit their activity and reduces their sense of independence. Preventing falls is important to preserving the quality of life of Oklahoma adults over age 65. OSDH says that falls are largely a preventable community health problem, with a wide range of practices to prevent falls. Some fall prevention tips include the following:

Physical Health and Fitness
• Wear appropriate footwear.
• Keep fit by being active, walking, and exercising as appropriate, eating a nutritious diet, and avoiding obesity.
• Have your ears/hearing checked by a physician regularly to improve balance problems.
• Talk with your healthcare provider about the possibility of getting physical therapy to improve balance while standing, walking, or using a cane or walker.
• Monitor your blood pressure.
• Take your time while doing tasks (e.g., use caution when getting up from a sitting or lying position, and get your balance before walking).
• Have your eyes examined each year and replace glasses as needed.
• Talk to your physician/pharmacist about adverse effects of medications such as dizziness, nausea, or tiredness.
• Avoid alcohol and drug use.  

Avoiding Hazards in and around the Home
• Make sure every room in your house is well lit.
• Floors should be free of obstacles and have even, non-slip surfaces.
• Remove small carpets and electrical cords from the floor to avoid sliding or tripping.
• Keep sidewalks clear and in good repair.
• Staircases should be well lit, in good repair, have a rail, and be free of clutter.

    - Keep steps in good repair and install handrails.

• In the kitchen:

    - Put frequently used items on shelves that can be reached easily without using a step stool.

• In bedrooms:

    - Keep the floor clear of small carpets, electrical cords, or other obstacles like books and shoes.    
    - Keep a telephone and any walking aids within easy reach.

• In bathrooms:

    - Use only non-slip rugs on the floor and mats in the bathtub or shower stall.     
    - Install a toilet that has a higher seat and safety rails.
    - Install grab bars around the bathtub.
    - Install a shower stall with grab bars.
    - Use a bath bench if you have difficulty climbing in or out of the bathtub.

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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