By Jamie Caulley
Providence Physical Therapist and Balance Clinical Advancement Lead-Oregon Region
A recent fall, close-call or feeling unsteady is something a lot of seniors prefer not to discuss. Sometimes they are embarrassed. Sometimes they don’t believe the fall could have been prevented. Sometimes they worry a fall will lead to a loss of independence. But the truth is, seniors, their families and healthcare providers should all be talking about falls. Every eleven seconds in the United States, an older adult visits the emergency department related to a fall; and sadly, every 20 minutes a senior dies from a fall-related injury. Despite how common falls are, they are not a natural part of aging.
- The good news is that there are many easy ways to prevent a fall. Experts recommend five steps:
- Find a balance or exercise program, such as a Tai Chi class, and commit to practicing at least three times per week.
- Tell your healthcare provider if you fall or feel unsteady. They can make sure your blood pressure is not too low; refer you to physical, speech or occupational therapy; review your medication list; or recommend Vitamin D, which has been shown to reduce falls.
- Get a yearly vision and hearing check.
- Make sure your home is safe. Find a checklist at oregon.gov.
- Let your family and friends know that you have fallen or worry about falling. They can support you in taking the steps above.
Not by coincidence, the National Council on Aging celebrates Falls Prevention Awareness Day on the first day of the fall season, September 22. “Ready, Steady, Balance: Prevent Falls in 2016,” is the theme for this ninth annual event which will take place in various locations across the nation to raise awareness about preventing falls and fall-related injuries.
“Fall Prevention Awareness Day is really just a starting point to highlight how common falls are,” said Colleen Casey, associate clinical director for geriatrics at Providence. “It’s a day to encourage older adults and their loved ones to start learning more about how they can take control and make themselves safer.”
On September 22, Providence Portland Medical Center will be hosting “Preventing Falls: Staying Healthy and On Your Feet,” from 10 a.m.-noon. The event is free to the public. The session will also include an introduction to Tai Chi—an ancient, evidence-based exercise shown to reduce fall risk in older adults. To find out more about Providence fall-prevention events and classes call the Providence Resource Line at (503) 574-6595 or search www.providence.org/classes. For more information on fall prevention, visit the CDC site or The National Council on Aging. Find local fall prevention and Tai Chi classes at healthoregon.org.