Proven programs can help prevent falls

Maryland seniors go to the emergency room for falls more than for any other type of injury. To bring awareness to the dangers of falling, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan has designated the week of September 18-24, 2016, to be Falls Prevention Awareness Week.

 

Falls Prevention Awareness Day (FPAD) will be observed on September 22, 2016, across the nation. This year the theme is “Ready, Steady, Balance: Prevent Falls in 2016.”

 

In 2014, there were 132,106 emergency department visits for fall injuries among all ages in Maryland. Of those, 32,886 were among adults 65 and older. There were 15,549 hospitalizations for fall injuries among adults 65 and older in 2014. Hospitalizations alone cost nearly $254 million for falls in adults 65 and older, while fall-related emergency visit charges were approximately $20 million.

 

“People don’t fall because they get older. Often, more than one underlying cause or risk factor is involved in a fall,” said Dr. Howard Haft, Health and Mental Hygiene’s Deputy Secretary for Public Health Services. “Knowing the risk factors and improving balance and coordination are effective ways to reduce the risk of falls.”

 

Proven programs to reduce falls include “Stepping-on” and “Tai Ji Quan: Moving for Better Balance” and are available in communities throughout Maryland. These effective programs can reduce falls among older adults by about 30 percent. Contact your local Office on Aging for available classes.

 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is working to make fall prevention a routine part of clinical care through its STEADI (Stopping Elderly Accidents Deaths & Injuries) initiative (http://www.cdc.gov/steadi/index.html). STEADI uses established clinical guidelines and effective strategies to help primary care providers to address their older patients’ fall risks and to identify modifiable risk factors, offering patients solutions that work. STEADI is now available as an interactive online training module that healthcare professionals can take to learn how to incorporate fall prevention into their daily clinical practice.

 

There are four basic steps you can take to reduce your risk of falls:

  • Begin a regular exercise program. Exercise improves strength and balance, as well as coordination.
  • Have your health care provider review your medicines. Some medicines or combinations of medicines can make you sleepy or dizzy and cause you to fall.
  • Have your vision checked. Have your eyes checked by an eye doctor at least once a year. Poor vision can increase your chances of falling.
  • Make your home safer. Remove tripping hazards like books and papers from stairs. Remove small throw rugs or use double-sided tape to hold them in place. Install grab bars next to your toilet and in your shower.

Many agencies in communities across the state are hosting events to raise awareness of fall prevention during Falls Prevention Awareness Week. For a list of activities and more information about how to prevent falls, please visit DHMH’s Center for Injury & Sexual Assault Prevention at https://goo.gl/BEZiHR or the National Council on Aging at https://goo.gl/iD0T0j.

 

— The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene is the State agency that protects Maryland’s public health through disease prevention, access to care, quality management, and community engagement.

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