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Safety Tip: Take Action to Prevent Older Adult Falls
Every second, someone over the age of 65 falls in the United States. Every second.
In fact, 1 in 4 older Americans (age 65+) falls every year. In Washington State, the rate is 1 in 3. Locally, your Spokane Valley Fire Department responds to more than 2,200 falls a year, making up nearly 13 percent of our overall emergency responses in 2017.
The Washington State Department of Health is launching a new older adult falls prevention effort called “Finding Our Balance”. The multi-faceted plan is timed with National Falls Prevention Awareness Day — September 22 — and is focused on public awareness, education, improving home safety and much more. Our Department is an active member of the Washington Falls Prevention Coalition and is working with many partners, including public health, to help prevent older adult falls.
Falls can result in major injuries, including broken bones, hip fractures and head trauma. Even when falls occur without a major injury, many people who fall become afraid of falling again. These individuals may cut back on certain activities, including exercise, which makes them become weaker and more likely to fall again. Falls can also result in costly medical bills and impact the quality of life for your loved one.
The good news about falls is they can be prevented. Falling is not a normal part of getting older. Instead, by learning about common factors that contribute to falls, you can better determine if you or a family member is at risk of a fall, and take action to reduce or eliminate those factors.
Common Factors Contributing to Older Adult Falls:*
- Decreased Balance and Muscle Strength
- Vision Impairment
- Chronic Health Conditions
- Environmental Factors
*According to the National Council on Aging
Action Steps to Prevent Falls:
- Stay Active: Regular exercise strengthens muscles and helps maintain balance, stability and flexibility. Try to get 150 minutes of physical activity every week. Check with your healthcare provider about best activities for your current fitness level.
- Have Your Vision Tested Annually: Even small changes in vision may impact your balance and cause you to fall.
- Review Medications: Have your healthcare provider or pharmacist review all of your prescription medications, over-the-counter medications and supplements you are taking for any adverse interactions or side effects that could increase your risk of falls.
- Talk to Your Doctor: discuss and unsteadiness or falls you have experienced.
- Make Your Home Safer: Remove tripping hazards, including floor rugs and electrical cords; add grab bars and other assistive devices as needed; and add good lighting to dim hallways and stairwells. The National Institute on Aging (NIA) has a checklist for “fall-proofing your home”.
There are local resources available to empower you to take action toward a safer and healthier life. You can find many of these resources by contacting the Spokane County office of Washington State’s Community Living Connections (CLC) at 509-960-7281. CLC provides information and referrals to local older adult programs, services and assistance providers.