WEST PALM BEACH – The Health Care District of Palm Beach County’s Trauma Agency is reminding senior adults, their families and friends about the simple steps that can prevent injuries and even death caused by falls. The week of Sept. 18 is Falls Prevention Awareness Week. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), each year in the U.S. one out of four older adults will fall. To educate the community about the ways to prevent falls, the Health Care District invites senior groups, nursing homes and adult communities to request free training by completing this online form: https://www.hcdpbc.org/resources/community-event-request.
“The Health Care District’s Trauma Agency plays an important role educating the community about fall prevention,” said Belma Andric, MD, MPH, the Health Care District’s Chief Medical Officer. “We encourage the community to take advantage of our no-cost, in-person training for seniors and their families.”
Between 2000 and 2020, nearly 3,800 people died in Florida as the result of a fall. In Palm Beach County, patients who fall account for 46% of all traumatic injuries treated within the county’s Trauma System. Over the past 12 months, over 1,700 of those patients were 65 years or older. According to the CDC, each year more than 800,000 older people in the U.S. are hospitalized because of a fall injury, most often because of a head injury or hip fracture. Falling once doubles the chances of falling again.
“As we age, gravity is not our friend,” said David A. Summers, RN, CFRN, EMT-P, Trauma Nurse Outreach Coordinator with the Health Care District of Palm Beach County. “Many factors can lead to a fall, such as loss of vision, being off-balance and not lifting your feet. The use of blood thinners can worsen the outcome of a fall. Many people who fall, even if they’re not injured, become afraid of falling. That leads to less activity, becoming weaker and ultimately, more prone to falling again and having a more serious outcome.”
Summers recommends seniors and their family members work together to ensure there is adequate lighting and eliminate any trip hazards in the home, like area rugs or power cords. Seniors should have their hearing and vision checked annually and glasses should be updated. Assistive devices, like walkers, are helpful. So are the installation of grab bars, especially in bathrooms and showers. Proper footwear like flat, rubber-soled shoes are advised. Families should frequently review medications to make sure physician orders are properly followed.
One of the best tips to prevent falling is to remain physically active. Flexibility, strength-training and building balance are key. Seniors can benefit from taking yoga, tai chi and other exercise classes with friends and family. Family members should also ask their loved one’s provider about checking for Vitamin D deficiency and advise the physician of any recent falls as seniors often withhold that information from their doctor. For more information, visit www.traumahawk.org.