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For Release: Sept. 17, 2013 - Pamela Williams, Office of Communications - 405/271-5601
Preventing Falls Can Help Older Adults Remain More Independent
The onset of the fall season this month is also a reminder of the importance of preventing injuries due to falls. Every 15 seconds, an older adult is seen in an emergency department for a fall-related injury. Each year in Oklahoma, nearly 7,000 older adults are hospitalized and about 300 die from a fall. Both nationally and in Oklahoma, f alls are the leading cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries for those aged 65 and over.
The Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) reminds health care professionals, older adults, caregivers, and family members that the chances of falling and being seriously injured in a fall increase with age. The health care costs associated with falls are also significant. In Oklahoma, hospital charges for acute care alone total more than $237 million annually.
“Falls are not a normal part of aging, so we use the ‘fall season’ as an opportunity to educate older adults and the community at large about how to reduce the risk of falling,” said OSDH Injury Prevention Project Coordinator Avy Redus. “We encourage seniors and their families to take proactive steps to prevent falls and stay independent for as long as possible.”
Studies show that a combination of interventions can significantly reduce falls in the older adult population. Experts recommend a physical activity regimen with balance, strength training, and flexibility components; consulting with a health professional about getting a fall risk assessment; having medications reviewed periodically; getting eyes checked annually; and making sure the home environment is safe and supportive.
In Oklahoma, individuals have been trained as Tai Chi instructors and teach Tai Chi: Moving for Better Balance classes around the state to older adults. The Tai Chi: Moving for Better Balance program has been proven to reduce the risk of falls. This exercise program focuses on improving functional ability, such as balance and physical function, to reduce fall-related risks and frequency. Current classes are posted on the OSDH website (http://falls.health.ok.gov).
In addition, falls can result in a fear of falling again, which causes many people to limit their activity and reduce their sense of independence. Preventing falls is important for preserving quality of life. Some fall prevention tips include the following:
‐ Keep floors clean and clear of clutter where people walk.
‐ Maintain adequate lighting throughout the home, especially near stairways.
‐ Remove throw rugs or use non‐skid throw rugs in the home.
‐ Install handrails on stairways.
‐ Increase safety in the bathroom by using non-slip mats in the bathtub or shower, installing grab bars, and using a shower chair when needed.
‐ Keep items needed for regular use in easy‐to‐reach places that don’t require the use of a step stool.
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