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First day of fall is a call to prevent falls

Man walking hand in hand with grandsonToday is the first day of the fall season. It is also the 11th annual Fall Prevention Awareness Day to raise awareness about how to prevent fall-related injuries among older adults.

According to the National Council on Aging (NCOA), every 11 seconds an older adult visits an emergency room for a fall related injury. Falls can result in hip fractures, broken bones and head injuries. And even falls without a major injury can cause an older adult to become fearful or anxious, making it difficult for them to stay active.

Presbyterian Homes & Services (PHS) is committed to reducing the number of falls in and around its senior living communities through special programs, trained staff and well-designed apartments and community spaces. PHS Fitness Directors lead exercise and balance classes and therapists help create support plans that motivate residents and clients to remain active and reduce their risk of falling.  

PHS is also a founding member of Empira, a quality improvement organization, committed to improving the aging experience by bringing out the best in aging services. Empira’s Fall Prevention and Reduction program trains staff in senior living settings to analyze the root cause of each specific fall incident then match an intervention to address that cause. 

Contrary to popular belief, falling is NOT an inevitable result of aging! Through lifestyle adjustments and some practical prevention, falls among older adults can be substantially reduced. Read on for 6 steps from NCOA on how to stay safe and upright.

Step 1: Find a balance or exercise program

Many communities across the country offer falls prevention programs that have been proven to help people reduce their risk and fear of falling. The NCOA web site has a search tool that can help you find programs and resources in your area.  Look for a program that will help you build balance, strength and flexibility. Find a program you like and take a friend.

Step 2: Talk to your doctor or primary health care provider

Ask for an assessment of your risk of falling. Share your history of recent falls. Your doctor can identify physical risk factors for a fall and help you develop an action plan to ensure you are as strong and healthy as possible.

Step 3: Review your medications

Make sure side effects aren’t increasing your risk of falling. If you’re experiencing side effects like feeling dizzy or sleepy, discuss these concerns with a doctor and pharmacist. Keep a list of medications, including over-the-counter medications and supplements, so the list is easily accessible when visiting a doctor or pharmacist. Take medications only as prescribed and, when you get a new prescription, ask your doctor or pharmacist to check interactions with your current medication regimen.

Step 4: Get your vision and hearing checked

Your eyes and ears are key to keeping you on your feet. Get your vision checked annually and remember that bifocal can be problematic on stairs.

Step 5: Keep your home safe

Most falls happen at home so do a walk through with objective eyes to assess the safety of your home. Remove tripping hazards such as throw rugs and clutter, increase lighting and ensure that lighting is easy to access when getting up at night. Make stairs safe by keeping them clear and well lit and install two secure rails. Install grab bars in key areas of the bathroom such as the tub, shower and near the toilet.

Step 6: Talk with your family

Have a conversation with your family and enlist their support to stay safe. Bring a trusted family member to your doctors’ appointments so that they are aware of your health and can know how to be supportive. Your family members can help you take the first 5 steps above and keep on top of your fall prevention action plan.

Enjoy fall without falling

The good news is that falling is not an inevitable result of aging. Taking action to address the risk of falling is an important way to stay healthy and independent as long as possible. A few changes to increase your daily activity and a little added attention to reduce risks can greatly increase your safety and well being.  
We hope you can relish the beauty of the fall without any falls. It only comes around once a year, so walk smart and enjoy!

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