The Ohio Departments of Aging and Health have joined the Ohio Older Adult Falls Prevention Coalition to encourage all Ohioans to use the autumn season to educate themselves and their loved ones about the risk of falls and fall-related injuries that increases as we age.
Aging and public health agencies and advocates all over the state are joining in to spread the word that many falls are preventable through five easy steps.
“When an older person falls, it affects that individual physically, but it also can have an impact on the person’s mental well-being and sense of independence,” said Barbara E. Riley, director of the Department of Aging. “And, if that individual needs care due to a fall-related injury, his or her family is affected as well. The good news is that families can help prevent most falls by recognizing the risks and making small changes.”
“Falls among older adults in Ohio have reached epidemic proportions and account for a disproportionate share of fall-related injuries,” added Alvin D. Jackson, M.D., director of the Department of Health. “In 2007, older Ohioans accounted for 21 percent of all fall-related emergency room visits, 70 percent of fall-related inpatient hospitalizations and 83 percent of deaths due to falls, despite representing only 13 percent of the state’s overall population. Falls are not a normal part of aging. There are strategies that can help older adults reduce their risk of falling.”
Five ways individuals and families can reduce the risk of falls:
1. Increase your physical activity. Simple exercise, like walking or swimming at least 15 minutes a day can help build muscle strength and improve balance, which can prevent falls. Exercise programs like Tai Chi that increase strength and improve balance are especially good.
2. See your eye doctor once each year. Age-related eye diseases, such as cataracts, macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy, can increase the risk of falling. Early detection is key to minimizing the effects of these conditions.
3. Review your medications. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about the medicines you are taking and whether they may cause drowsiness or dizziness. Discuss things you can do to ensure you are taking your medicines safely.
4. Remove environmental hazards. Look around the house for anything that could increase the risk of falls, including poor lighting, loose rugs, slippery floors and unsteady furniture. Remove or modify these hazards.
5. Think, plan and slow down. Many falls are caused by hurrying. Slow down and think through the task you are performing. Be mindful of possible falls risks and act accordingly.
Individuals and families also can contact their area agency on aging or local health department office to learn about available trainings and resources designed to reduce the risk of falls. Call toll-free 1-866-243-5678 to be connected to the area agency on aging serving your community.
Facts about falls and older Ohioans:
• According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 30 percent of adults age 65 and older living in the community fall each year.
• More than half of all older adults who live in residential care facilities or nursing homes will fall each year.
• Falls are the leading cause of injury-related deaths and the most common cause of nonfatal injuries and hospital admissions for trauma in older adults.
• Most fractures among older adults are caused by falls.
• The risk of falling increases significantly after age 75.
• Falls account for more than 90 percent of all accidental hip fractures.
• Fall-related emergency room-visit and inpatient hospitalization rates are higher for falls than all other injuries combined.
• Falls account for more than two-thirds (68 percent), of the total annual costs of nonfatal, hospital-admitted accidents. In 2003, they amounted to $4.2 billion in Ohio for work-loss, medical costs and quality-of-life-loss.
• For older Ohioans, the number of fatal falls increased 140 percent from 2000 (367) to 2008 (882).
• On average, more than 2 older Ohioans suffered fatal falls each day in 2008.
• For about 1 in 3 older Ohioans, falls lead to injuries that resulted in a doctor visit or restricted activity.
• Risk factors for falls include poor health status, prescription drug interactions, impaired cognitive function, use of alcohol, history of falls and impaired vision.
• Many people who fall, even those who are not injured, may develop a fear of falling, leading them to limit their activities, which in turn, may increase their risk for falls.