Falls Prevention Awareness month is an excellent time to focus on one of older adults’ leading causes of injury-related death. Falling is common for older adults, especially those who live alone. Every year, one in four older adults experience a fall, and falls are the leading cause of severe and fatal injuries for adults over 65. Falling once doubles your chances of falling again.

September 22: History of Falls Prevention Awareness Day

As people age, many of their faculties begin to weaken. Eyesight becomes poorer; muscles deteriorate, as does coordination. In 1972, Psychology professor Andrew Dibner at Boston University saw a way to help seniors by creating a personal emergency response system for people who fell and could not get to a phone. In 1976 he was awarded the patent for Lifeline Systems. Since then, states have come together to observe Falls Prevention Awareness Month to promote ways to avoid preventable injuries.

What Causes Older Adults to Fall?

Many things increase the likeliness of falling as we age, including lower-body weakness, Vitamin D deficiency, difficulties balancing, use of medicines that affect cognitive abilities, vision problems, foot pain, undiagnosed medical problems, or low blood pressure.

What To Do If You Fall

If you have fallen, visit your doctor as soon as possible for a complete physical. If you are a caregiver and the older adult you care for has fallen, make sure they get to a doctor. Not all injuries associated with falling are apparent, and a medical examination will help identify any problems.

Wearing a medical alert bracelet with a fall detection capability can be extremely helpful in these situations. Many medical alert devices can detect when someone falls and alert a monitoring center to contact the appropriate person or response team.

Facts About Falls Prevention Awareness Day

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other falls research:  

  • More than one-fourth of Americans age 65+ fall each year.
  • Falls are the leading cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries among older adults
  • The cost of treating injuries caused by falls is projected to increase to over $101 billion by 2030.
  • Falls result in more than 3 million injuries treated in emergency departments annually, including over 800,000 hospitalizations. 
  • Each year about $754 million is spent on medical costs related to fatal falls.
  • For older adults in the U.S., fall death rates went up by 30% from 2007-2016, and researchers predict there will be seven deadly falls every hour by 2030.
  • People with mild hearing loss are nearly three times as likely to fall, with every 10 decibels of hearing loss increasing fall risk.
  • 60% of falls, happen in the home, 30% in a public setting, and 10% in a health care center.

How to Prevent Falling

1.   Practice improving your balance

Try to move carefully when you go from a sitting to a standing position. Moving too quickly may cause you to fall. Pause going up and down stairs or moving around the house. You can improve your mobility and balance by taking a balance class or practicing Tai Chi. 

2. Wear sensible shoes       

Appropriate footwear is an essential part of fall prevention. Avoid heels, flip-flops, and shoes with slippery soles. Instead, opt for properly fitting, sturdy, lightweight shoes with nonskid soles.  

3.  Make your home a safe place

Your home is where you spend most of your time. Make sure it is fall-proof by cleaning clutter, removing furniture like coffee tables, relocating plants, and clearing electrical cords from walkways. Use non-skid rug pads or tape to prevent trips on rugs.

4. Brighten your living space

A brightly lit home is a safer home. Make sure light switches are easily accessible when you enter a room. Turn on lights before going up or down stairs and consider replacing traditional switches with glow-in-the-dark or illuminated switches.

5. Create places to lean, grab, and rest

Find more balance by using a walker or cane for extra support when walking. Install handrails, armrests, grab bars, nonslip treads, and raised seating wherever possible in your home, especially in the bathroom and stairway.

Fall prevention means injury prevention

Ask your friends, loved ones, or caregivers to help ensure that your rooms and stairways are clutter-free and well-equipped with lighting, handrails, grab bars, and nonslip mats to help you avoid falling.

Fall Prevention Classes and Resources

Tai Chi for Health, Beginning Tai Chi, Wushu. Classes for all ages. Call 541-639-8898 for details.

Tai Chi for Health with Jenny Sheldon. Call 541-788-7537 or email activelifetaichi@gmail.com for more information.

Tai Chi in Central Oregon at the Trinity Church in Bend. Call 541-382-5542 for details.

La Pine Recreational Center, Monday and Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 11a.m

  • Cost: $30 a month
  • Instructor: Grandmaster Franklin Wood
  • Virtual classes are held simultaneously Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, following the regular class schedules. The virtual classes are free of cost to students. To register for virtual classes, go to www.grandmasterfranklin.com

You’ll find other classes for older adults at the Bend Senior Center. Call  541-388-1133 for details.

Bend Fire Department SOS program, Falls Prevention, and Fire Hazards program for seniors offers Free safety checks in your home. Call 541-322-6309 for details.

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