“Falling is NOT a natural part of growing old.”
That’s the message Carol Miller, OSU Extension educator for Clark and Champaign counties, and Cindy Wingert, a local registered nurse, brought to a meeting of Clark County TRIAD last week.
As she pointed out, injuries from falls are a real concern, especially for the older population. One of three Ohioans age 65 and older falls each year. Falls are the leading cause of injury-related emergency room visits, hospitalizations and deaths for Ohioans age 65. And by 2020, the indirect costs of fall injuries are expected to reach $55 million.
The fear of falling can lead to isolation, which in turn can result in decreased mobility and physical fitness and a greater risk of falling. Also, 50 percent of elderly people who survive a fall go to a nursing home, and 50 percent of those people are still in a nursing home one year later. Death rates among the elderly population rise after hip fractures.
But the news isn’t all bad, and falls can be prevented. One way, Miller stressed, is removing risk factors for falls: Wet and icy driveways, sidewalks and steps, stairs without handrails or with loose ones, uneven throw rugs and carpets, power cords, loose and ill-fitting footwear, medications that cause dizziness, poor vision and lighting, bathroom hazards, pets and clutter.
Wingert touted another preventative measure: exercises that increase endurance, strength, flexibility and balance—some of which can be done while seated on a chair or couch.
Miller also recommends remodeling using Universal Design that can make homes safer and less of a risk for falls.
Addtional information is available through the statewide prevention initiative called Steady U and its website http://aging.ohio.gov./steadyu.
The OSU Extension Office that serves Clark and Champaign counties can also provide details on “A Matter of Balance,” a program of small workshops to help participants avoid falls and increase activity levels. The two-hour sessions will be held at the Springview Governmental Center on March 3, 10, 17, 24 and 31 and April 7. Cost is $10, and participants must pre-register by Feb. 24 by calling 937-521-3860 or at http://go.osu.edu/fcs.