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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:

  • Exercise regularly. Exercises that improve strength, balance, and coordination are the most helpful in lowering the risk of fall‐related injuries.
  • Ask a health care provider or pharmacist to review both prescription and over‐the‐counter medications to monitor side effects and interactions. The way medications work in the body can change with age. Some medications or combinations of medications can contribute to drowsiness or dizziness, which may increase the risk of falling.
  • Have vision screenings at least once a year. The wrong prescription eyeglasses or health conditions, such as glaucoma or cataracts, limit vision and may increase the risk of falling.
  • Reduce hazards in the home that may lead to fall‐related injuries.

‐ 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.


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

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