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Friday, September 11, 2015

Take steps to prevent falls: 10 Million Steps campaign will raise awareness

Council on Aging CEO Suzanne Burke
Council on Aging's CEO, Suzanne Burke

Recently a friend of mine went to her father’s house to pick him up for an appointment. Sitting in her car, she watched him walk down his slightly sloping front walkway, his hand skimming the top of the railing. Her cell phone buzzed and she turned her head to find it and punch it off. When she turned back, her father was nowhere in sight. Startled, she opened her car door and saw him sprawled at the bottom of the walk. “This is it,” she thought as she ran to him. “This is the fall where he breaks his hip.”

Fortunately he was OK – nothing broken. But her 88-year-old father’s falls have become a serious concern (he has a walker but does not want to use it). “He has a heart condition,” she said, “but his doctor and I agree the greater risk to his independence is injury from falling.”

For older adults and people with disabilities – as well as for their caregivers and families – falls are a very serious and potentially life-changing risk. They happen with alarming frequency. According to the Ohio Department of Aging:

  • Falls are the leading cause of injury-related hospitalization and death among Ohioans age 65 and older. 
  • An older Ohioan falls every two minutes on average, resulting in an injury every five minutes, six emergency department visits and one hospitalization each hour, and three deaths each day.
  • The total estimated cost of falls (medical costs, work loss) is $646 million annually in Ohio, or $1.8 million each day.

At Council on Aging, our staff always include “falls risk” when they assess the level of care needed by older adults and people with disabilities who want to enroll in service programs.

The good news is that falls can be prevented. There are many things that individuals, businesses, public facilities, and communities can do. Efforts begin with increasing public awareness and understanding of the importance of falls prevention.

Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2015, is National Falls Prevention Awareness Day. Ohio is participating in a big way and you can too. Ohio’s STEADY U initiative is asking everyone to help take "10 Million Steps to Prevent Falls" throughout September.

10 Million Steps to Prevent Falls logo

"10 Million Steps to Prevent Falls" is a statewide campaign to get as many Ohioans of all ages as possible to walk at least one mile on or around Sept. 23 in the name of falls prevention. You can help achieve this goal in one of two ways:

  1. Participate in a "10 Million Steps" event. Community organizations have partnered with STEADY U Ohio to sponsor local walking events with information and resources to help you prevent falls. Visit www.steadyu.ohio.gov for the list of events, including those in our area. At Council on Aging (COA), our staff will be walking a mile (four laps around the parking lot). And on Sept. 24 at 1 p.m., a falls prevention event hosted by People Working Cooperatively, UC Health Trauma Services, and Molina Healthcare, will be held at the Daniel Drake Center for Post-Acute Care. COA will be on hand with information about our services.
  2. Any time in September, take a one-mile walk by yourself or with family or friends, and post a selfie of your efforts to social media using the hashtags #PreventFalls and #10MStepsOH. Posts will be counted toward the state's goal.

Ohio Department of Aging Director Bonnie K. Burman also challenged all Ohioans who care for or serve individuals who are unable to walk on their own to participate in "10 Million Steps to Prevent Falls" on their behalf.

"Whether you're a caregiver or a case worker, nurse's assistant or head of nursing, falls prevention should be a big part of what you do every day," Burman said. "You can join the cause and create a culture of falls prevention by figuratively walking a mile in their shoes."

Individuals participating in "10 Million Steps to Prevent Falls" on another's behalf should include the hashtag #MileInTheirShoes in their social media posts.

Ohio government and state business partners have been promoting falls awareness for several years via STEADY U Ohio, a statewide collaborative falls prevention initiative, The Steady U website is the source in Ohio for falls prevention information, tools and other resources.

So, beyond increasing awareness, what can be done to prevent falls? The most basic, is to keep your strength up as much as possible, as you age. At least 15 to 30 minutes of exercise every day – walking is perfect – really helps to keep you steady on your feet. Ironically, if you become sedentary out of fear of falling, you may only weaken your muscles and increase your risk. Many other tips can be found at Steady U Ohio.

Please join us and help make a difference by participating in “10 Million Steps to Prevent Falls.”

Suzanne Burke is President and CEO of Council on Aging of Southwestern Ohio

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