LMH offers tips to prevent falls, which often lead to decline in health for older adults
- on February 1, 2012
Lawrence resident Marge Borom held the back of the chair in front of her while lifting her leg out to the side several times.
Borom, 65, was among about 50 people who attended the program. She said she knows all too well the consequences that can happen from falls. During the past year, her son’s father-in-law fell going to the bathroom and he didn’t tell anyone. She said he died because he had injured his brain and didn’t know it.
She said her husband’s health declined after having a stroke, falling and breaking his hip.
“He went downhill from there,” she said. He went from using a cane to a walker and then to a wheelchair. He died four years ago at age 92.
“They told him to walk, which he didn’t do,” she said.
Bone, who has been a physical therapist for 15 years, emphasized that the best way to prevent falls is to exercise regularly to improve strength and balance.
“It’s so important to move,” she said.
Bone described falls as a national health crisis because they often lead to emergency room visits, surgeries, nursing home stays, an overall decline in health and even death, and they are common:
• One third of adults older than age 65 fall each year.
• One half of adults older than age 75 fall each year.
• About 30 percent of those who fall suffer moderate to severe injuries such as lacerations, fractures or head trauma.
• Less than half who fall report it to their doctor.
• Among those 65 and older, falls are the leading cause of injury-related death. Every 35 minutes, a senior dies following a fall.
Aynsley Anderson, LMH community education coordinator, said the problem is only going to escalate as the population continues to grow older.
In 2011, there were about 3,178 LMH emergency room visits due to falls being either the primary or secondary reason for the visit. There were 899 from slipping and 282 from falling on steps or stairs.
“It’s a huge problem,” Anderson said. “Often they end up in a hospital or rehab center and their quality of life is never the same, and a lot of people die from falls. It’s a huge cause of death for older folks, particularly older men falling off roofs.”
Among Anderson’s recommendations to help prevent falls:
• Regular exercise. She said sometimes seniors are afraid to exercise if they have fallen, but it’s worse if they don’t because they lose strength, become unstable and increase their chances of falling again. “It becomes a vicious cycle,” she said.
• Take your time. Being rushed or distracted increases the chances of falling. Also, take your time getting up from a chair or out of bed.
• Check medications. It’s important to go over medications and supplements with a pharmacist or doctor regularly because they may cause dizziness or drowsiness.
• Check vision annually. People may be wearing the wrong glasses or have a condition like glaucoma or cataracts that limits vision.
• Home safety. About 50 percent of all falls happen at home, and the No. 1 place is the bathroom. It’s important to use nonslip mats and have grab bars in the shower and next to toilet. Other tips include removing clutter and cords, and improving lighting.
• Wear appropriate footwear and clothing. Sometimes, people trip over clothes that are too long.
Virginia Kurata, 89, of Lawrence, was among those who attended the program and experienced a fall herself. She said she tripped over the corner of a shopping bag while carrying groceries into the house and fell on her knee and to the side. She was alone, and it took awhile for her to get up, but she did and was able to recuperate at home.
“I thought at the time, ‘I’ve just got to be more careful,’” she said. “I’m glad it wasn’t worse.”
Kurata said her close friend fell while walking on a sidewalk and landed face first. She said her face was so bruised that she didn’t eat with the others in her assisted living facility until it healed.
“She missed the socialization,” she said.
Kurata and Borom said the program reminded them about the importance of exercise. LMH provided an exercise guide and free elastic exercise bands to the participants. Borom held up her band and said, “I have one of these at home and it’s hanging on my door knob.”
Now, she plans to put it to use in hopes of preventing another fall. She said she fell and hit her head, and her doctor ran some tests and found that she was OK.
“I’m very thankful,” she said.
A limited number of lunches will be available at 12:30 p.m. Advance registration is required for lunch by calling 842-2400 by Feb. 8.
Tagged: fall prevention