Each year, across the country, thousands of educators, caregivers, health and aging professionals, and older adults focus their efforts on one goal: preventing falls. That’s why the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) is partnering with the National Council on Aging (NCOA) and the Falls Free® Coalition to celebrate Falls Prevention Awareness Day, Sept. 23. This year’s activities will focus on the teamwork needed to prevent falls effectively.
Every second of every day in the United States an older adult falls, making falls the number one cause of fatal and nonfatal injury among older Americans. Every week in Oklahoma, approximately 124 adults age 65 and older are hospitalized and 11 die from a fall. Acute care hospital charges alone total more than $250 million a year.
Falls are not a normal part of aging, and an individual has the power to prevent them. The OSDH offers the following tips on simple tips to prevent falls:
Exercise regularly. Exercises that improve strength, balance, and coordination are the most helpful in lowering the risk of fall-related injuries.
*Speak up. Talk to your doctor about fall risks and prevention. *Ask a doctor or pharmacist to review both prescription and over-the-counter medications for 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 increases 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, and use non-slip mats in the bathtub or shower. *Install handrails on stairways and grab bars in bathrooms. *Keep regularly needed items in easy-to-reach places that don’t require the use of a step stool.
The Tai Chi: Moving for Better Balance program has been proven to reduce the risk of falls. Throughout Oklahoma, many individuals have been trained as Tai Chi instructors and teach Tai Chi: Moving for Better Balance classes to older adults. This exercise program focuses on improving functional abilities, such as balance and physical function, to reduce fall-related risks and frequency of falls. Oklahoma seniors are invited to join one of the more than 90 open Tai Chi: Moving for Better Balance classes across the state.
To receive more information on classes and how to prevent falls, contact the OSDH Injury Prevention Service at (405) 271-3430 or visit http://falls.health.ok.gov.