The first day of fall, Sept. 22, 2012, is the National Falls Prevention Awareness Day. Dr. Kaume, a nutrition and health education specialist with University of Missouri Extension believes the day should to be marked by learning and discussing useful, safe and effective tips to prevent falls among older adults.
“Although several factors make older adults susceptible to falls, falling is not a natural part of aging and the good news is that falls are largely preventable,” said Kaume. “But state and national numbers for falls demonstrate why this is such an important health issue.”
Another major effect of falls is the fear of falling that develops after and individual has experienced a fall. Many older adults develop this fear and respond by adopting less active lifestyles, resulting in reduced mobility, loss of physical fitness and increased isolation, which unfortunately increases their fall risk.
According to Kaume, some easy steps can help keep adults fall free.
For example, beginning an exercise program to improve balance and coordination is the first step. Seniors require a doctor’s advice on suitable exercise programs based on their health.
Having a doctor or pharmacist review all the medications including over the counter drugs is also important, some medications may cause dizziness or drowsiness and increase fall risk.
Other measures include, having vision checked by an eye doctor annually and taking steps to make homes safer by reducing tripping hazards, adding grab bars inside and outside the tub or shower and next to the toilet, adding stair railings and improving the lighting in their homes.
“Seniors can lower their hip fracture risk by doing weight bearing exercises, taking the recommended amount of calcium and vitamin D in food and supplements, and knowing their bone density number through osteoporosis screening,” said Kaume.
In the years 2009-2010, Missouri seniors had 143,054 falls resulting in 45,174 hospital visits/hospitalizations, and 575 deaths. According to the latest Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services data, 41 percent of falls among Missouri seniors occur as result of slipping, tripping or stumbling (on level ground as opposed to stairs or uneven floors). About 40 percent are from falls from beds, chairs, wheelchairs, toilets or other furniture and 8 percent of falls are from stairs or steps.
The Center for Disease Control reports one third of adults 65 and older experience a fall, and falls are the leading cause of injury death in the United States. In 2008, over 19,700 older adults died from unintentional fall injuries.
Falls are also responsible for most nonfatal injuries and hospital admissions for trauma, and fractures. In fact, CDC records show that over 90 percent of hip fractures are caused by falls.
For more information on nutrition issues, go online to http://extension.missouri.edu or contact one of the nutrition and health education specialists working in the Ozarks: Christeena Haynes, in Dallas County, (417) 345-7551; Dr. Lydia Kaume in Barton County, (417) 682-3579; or Dr. Pam Duitsman, in Springfield, (417) 886-2059.