Iowa joins 45 other states, Washington D.C., and Puerto Rico in recognizing Falls Prevention Awareness Day on the first day of fall, September 22, 2012. “Falls are a significant concern for Iowans, especially with our aging population,” said Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) Director, Dr. Mariannette Miller-Meeks. “Falls are the leading cause of injury hospitalizations and emergency room visits in Iowa and the leading cause of injury deaths for those over age 65.” The total cost of fall-related hospitalizations and emergency department visits in Iowa are over $237 million annually.
Falls are not a natural consequence of aging; however, aging does contribute to factors that increase the risk of falling, including reduced strength in lower extremities, use of four or more medications, poor vision, chronic health problems and unsafe home conditions. “When older adults fall, it often leads to a loss of independence and reduced mobility,” said Iowa Department on Aging (IDA) Director Donna Harvey. “Research indicates that fall prevention programs for high-risk older adults have a net-cost savings of almost $9 in benefits to society for each $1 invested. Through appropriate risk management, falls are preventable.”
There are ways older Iowans can prevent falls:
- Take your time - get out of chairs slowly. Sit for a moment before getting out of bed.
- Wear sturdy, well-fitting shoes with low heels and non-slip soles.
- See an eye specialist once a year. Poor vision can increase your chances of falling.
- Be aware that some medications have side effects that can cause dizziness.
- Increase physical activity - regular exercise increases balance and strength.
Follow these tips to make living areas safer and help reduce the risk of falls:
- Use non-slip mats in the bathtub and on shower floors.
- Have grab bars installed next to the toilet and in the tub or shower.
- Have handrails on both sides of stairways.
- Improve lighting in the entire home.
- Remove tripping hazards like throw rugs and clutter in walkways.
For more information about falls prevention, visit www.idph.state.ia.us/FallPrevention/.