September is Fall Prevention Awareness Month

Thursday, September 18, 2014

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September is Falls Prevention Awareness Month and Tuesday, Sept. 23 is National Falls Prevention Awareness Day, with the theme: “Strong Today, Falls Free® Tomorrow.” How much do you know about falls and fall prevention?

Which of these statements is false?

A. Falls are the number one cause of injuries leading to ER visits, hospital stays and deaths among Ohioans age 65 and older.
B. Falls and fall-related injuries cost Ohio more than $4.2 billion each year.
C. Falls are a natural part of aging.
D. Falls are preventable.

If you guessed C, you are correct! According to the Ohio Department of Health, falls are the leading cause of injury-related hospitalization and death among Ohioans aged 65 and older and they are largely preventable. Ohio’s aging network is committed to preventing falls among older adults who are enrolled in state-funded in-home care programs such as PASSPORT, the Assisted Living Waiver, and the Ohio Home Care Waiver.

This September marks the one year anniversary of a statewide campaign to reduce falls among older adults, STEADY U Ohio. Led by the Ohio Department of Aging and supported by the Department of Health and more than 20 other state government and business partners – including Council on Aging and other Area Agencies on Aging – STEADY U works to ensure that every county, every community and every Ohioan knows how they can prevent falls, one step at a time.

In support of this effort, Council on Aging began conducting falls risk assessments among in-home care clients in November 2013. In-home care clients are generally frail and severely disabled and therefore most at risk for a fall. Clients are assessed at enrollment and then annually thereafter. The assessment helps to identify individuals at risk for falls, provides education on fall prevention, and referrals for further assessment or treatment as necessary.

During the assessment, care managers review a fall prevention fact sheet with clients and talk about things that can be done in the home to prevent a fall and help ease the fear of falling, including: eliminating hazards in the home; the benefits of regular physical activity; the need for annual vision exams; the need to review medications with a physician annually; and the importance of eating well and staying hydrated.

Depending on the outcome of an assessment, care managers may order assistive devices (walkers, bath benches, raised toilet seats), arrange for home modifications (bathroom grab bars, handrails, step repair), and/or make referrals for occupational or physical therapy. Care managers can also consult with clients’ physicians, pharmacists, optometrists and other care providers to help reduce the risk of a fall.

Since November 2013, COA staff have completed more than 4,000 falls risk assessments (at initial enrollment and through routine annual reviews) with clients enrolled in PASSPORT and the Assisted Living Waiver.

How you can prevent falls
from the Ohio Department of Aging
Decreased muscle mass, vision and hearing decline, medical conditions and joint pain are some of the age-related changes that can increase falls risks, but falls are preventable. Minor changes to the three H's - home, health and habits - can offset these risk factors:

  • Home: Remove or secure throw rugs; improve lighting especially near stairs; install grab bars in the bathroom; rearrange the home to make frequently used items easier to reach.
  • Health: Ask your doctor about a falls risk assessment and talk about medicines you take and whether they increase your risk for falls; have your hearing and vision checked annually.
  • Habits: Stay active to build muscle strength and improve balance; slow down and think through tasks; stay hydrated and eat a well-balanced diet that includes calcium-rich foods.

Facts about falls and older Ohioans
from the Ohio Department of Health

  • Falls are the leading cause of injury-related hospitalization and death among Ohioans aged 65 and older and are largely preventable. 
  • 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.
  • Older adults account for a disproportionate share of fall-related injuries. Approximately 15 percent of Ohio citizens are age 65 or older, yet this group accounts for more than 84 percent of fatal falls. 
  • The number of fatal falls among these older Ohioans increased more than 165 percent from 2000 to 2012.
  • The total estimated cost of falls (medical costs, work loss) is $646 million annually in Ohio, or $1.8 million each day. Falling and the fear of falling can lead to debilitating consequences such as depression and hopelessness, loss of mobility and loss of functional independence. 
  • The causes of falls vary with contributing factors including lack of strength in the lower extremities, the use of four or more medications, reduced vision, chronic health problems and unsafe home conditions. 
  • The risk of hip fracture can be reduced by getting screened, and if needed, treated for osteoporosis and by getting adequate calcium and vitamin D from food and supplements.

Falls Resources:
National Council on Aging
Hamilton County Fall Prevention Task Force
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Help4Seniors Resource Directory