What is the number-one cause of injury and hospitalization among older adults in the U.S.?

You might be

surprised by the

answer. It's



One-third of people ages 65 and older fall each year.

Unfortunately,some die as a result. But the U.S. Public Health Service estimatesthat two-thirds of the deaths associated with a fall are preventable.

What can you do to safeguard yourself from falls? PLENTY!

Here are some ways to get started:

• Take your time when you get up.

• Before you get up from bed, sit on the side for a few minutes and make sure you don't get dizzy.

• If you use equipment such as a wheelchair or a walker, make sure you know how to do so safely.

• Lock your wheelchair before getting in or out.

• Lean only on heavy, stable objects.

• Don't tilt your head back sharply.

• Go to the bathroom before going to bed at night.

• Don't wear loose-fitting shoes or socks when walking.

• Watch for any spills on the floor and clean them up immediately.

• Keep all electric and telephone cords out of paths.

• Install handrails in stairways.

• Use only nonskid rugs and mats.

• Place nonskid strips in bathtubs.

• Put a grab bar on the wall by the tub or shower.

More for Seniors



Remaining Safe from Falls in Our Homes

By Pamela B. Smith, Director, Aging & Independence services

If you're a 75-year-old (or older) female living alone, you have the greatest probability of having a fall. Add to that an acute illness, alcohol use or a previous fall and you're odds worsen. Toss in poor lighting, vision problems, and a few throw rugs and you're an accident waiting to happen.


Last year, some 7,000 persons over 75 in San Diego County had falls so serious they required help from paramedics, according to the County Emergency Medical Services (EMS). That's about 19 seniors each day!

Everyone stumbles once in a while, but when a frail older adult falls, the results can be life altering, even fatal. Of those seniors who survive their falls, many suffer serious injuries, including hip fractures and head trauma. Once hospitalized for a hip fracture, approximately 40 percent never live independently again.

People who have fallen once become fearful of falling again, according to Joanne Price, chair for the Fall Prevention Task Force with the Health Promotions unit of the County's Aging & Independence Services. "They'll start walking in more of a shuffle than a full step, but this puts them at more risk. When you're not lifting your foot and walking heel to toe, you're more likely to catch your foot on something."

The AIS Fall Prevention Task Force has teamed up with EMS, Response Link Medical Alert (Joanne's company) and Sav-on Health-N-Home stores to bring more awareness to the subject of fall prevention and other safety measures for seniors.

Fall prevention is just starting to get the attention it deserves as a public health issue. The National Council on Aging (NCOA) has launched a National Action Plan to educate the public, service providers and health/social service professionals. The plan focuses on four target areas: physical mobility, medication management, home safety and community environmental safety.

1.Physical mobility refers not only to one's ability to move, but balance and strength. Consider that falls are common just trying to get down to or up from a toilet. Strengthening thigh muscles is one way to help reduce the risk of a fall during that important activity. The NCOA plan calls for having more physical mobility programs for older adults.

The County sponsors Feeling Fit Clubs specifically for seniors who have seen some decline in their functioning. The program is geared to improving flexibility, balance and strength, helping participants build on their abilities gradually. There are other such programs at YMCAs, gyms and other settings in the community. Older adults should consult their physician before beginning an exercise program, but almost any senior can benefit from these functional fitness classes, even if they've been sedentary.

2. Medication management is important because taking pills improperly or having negative drug reactions can lead to confusion, dizziness, drowsiness and other cognitive states that increase instability. Seniors should consult with their doctor and pharmacist about any drug-drug interactions with the medications they are taking and learn how a new medication should be taken. They should also use reminders, such as pillboxes, to help them take their pills properly.

3. Home safety focuses on reducing hazardous conditions, such as poor lighting, and adding features that will make getting around easier, such as handrails and grab bars.

Just keeping the home straightened up and reducing items in the home can help. Seniors should get their adult children to help sort through items in the home and modify the home to reduce the risk of falls. Besides adding a grab bar in the shower, they could install grab bars or a commode stand near all the toilets and a grab bar or partial railing to help the senior more safely get out of bed. Stairs should have sturdy railings on both sides of a stairway.

Family caregivers can get help modifying their home or the home of their parents through the AIS Family Caregiver Support Program. Through the program, Interfaith Community Services and Jewish Family Services provide home safety and modification services. North County caregivers should call Rebecca Steiner at Interfaith, (760) 489-6380, ext. 247, or rsteiner@interfaithservices.org. For other areas of the county, contact Brenda Bothel of Jewish Family Services, (619) 229-2653, or Brendab@jfssd.org

4. Environmental safety refers to hazards outside the home, such as cracked pavement, and making improvements in public buildings, such as handrails and ramps. The NCOA plan suggests informing the public about the environmental hazards to seniors so they will advocate for improvements.

To read more about the NCOA National Action Plan, see www.ncoa.org. There's also a link to other fall prevention information from our Network of Care Web site: www.sandiego.networkofcare.org/aging. Click the Fall Prevention icon on the home page.

If you know of an organization that would like a presentation on fall prevention, contact Tony Potter, AIS Health Promotions, (858) 495-5061.

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