September is Falls Prevention Awareness Month
By WILLIAM K. ALCORN
September is Falls Prevention Awareness Month, a time to draw attention to the epidemic of accidental falls among older adults in Ohio.
One in three Ohioans fall each year, and falls are particularly harmful to older adults, said Beverley L. Laubert, director of the Ohio Department of Aging.
On average, three older Ohioans suffered fatal falls each day in 2015 and the numbers are on the rise.
Falls are the leading cause of injury-related emergency room visits, hospitalizations and deaths for Ohioans 65 and older.
Falls and fall-related injuries can affect older adults’ quality-of-life and present a substantial burden to the Ohio health-care system.
According to ODA, from 2000 to 2015, Ohioans 65 and older experienced a 201 percent increase in the number of fatal falls and a 147 percent increase in the fall death rate. In 2014, there were 4.5 fall-related emergency visits for every 100 Ohio older adults and nearly 11 fall-related hospitalizations for every 1,000 Ohio older adults.
Also, older adults are disproportionately affected by fall-related injuries. They account for only 16 percent of Ohio citizens; however, they account for 85 percent of fatal falls. From 2000 to 2015, Ohioans 65 and older experienced a 201 percent increase in the number of fatal falls, according to ODA.
Also, falls are costly in monetary terms.
The total estimated medical and work-loss costs of fatal falls among Ohioans 65 and older is nearly $2 billion annually in Ohio, according statistics compiled by the Ohio Department of Health and the Ohio Hospital Association.
Area Agency on Aging 11 offers free wellness programs, including A Matter of Balance, a fall prevention workshop. It’s an eight-week structured group intervention that emphasizes practical strategies to reduce fear of falling and increase activity levels. Participants learn to view falls and fear of falling as controllable, set realistic goals to increase activity, change their environment to reduce fall risk factors, and exercise to increase strength and balance.
“The workshops are successful because they are peer-led and help to empower people to take control of their health,” said Lisa Solley, director of communications for AAA11.
There’s also the ODA’s Ohio STEADY U, a statewide collaborative fall-prevention initiative supported by Ohio government and state business partners to ensure that every county, every community and every Ohioan knows how they can prevent falls. The Ohio STEADY U web site is the source in Ohio for falls prevention information, tools and other resources.
For example, by knowing and managing risk factors, older citizens can live full and active lives free of the fear of falling, health officials say.
Recently, ODA began a collaboration between Walgreens drug stores throughout Ohio, Ohio Association of Area Agencies on Aging and local Area Agencies on Aging to help reduce falls among older adults.
There are simple steps that older adults can take to reduce their risk for a fall. Additional resources, including checklists and brochures, are available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at http://www.cdc.gov/homeandrecreationalsafety/falls/index.html.