Preventing Falls Among Older Adults
Media Contact: Mary Margaret Colliver, 859-361-1887
LEXINGTON, Ky. (May 11, 2009) Falls in the home are a significant yet underappreciated health concern for older Kentuckians. Every year, about one in three adults over age 65 experiences an injury from a fall nationwide. And falls cause thousands of life-threatening injuries each year among Kentucky's aging population.
The Kentucky Injury Prevention and Research Center (KIPRC) has developed the Safe Aging Coalition to form a more comprehensive and collaborative approach to keep older adults healthy and independent by identifying and reducing risk factors for falling.
The coalition was developed in collaboration with the University of Kentucky College of Public Health, the Kentucky Department for Public Health, the Kentucky Department for Community Based Services, the Kentucky Department for Aging and Independent Living, American Association for Retired Persons, Cardinal Hill Rehabilitation Hospital, Hospice of the Bluegrass, Kentucky Pharmacists Assocation, Brain Injury Association of Kentucky, and other organizations around the state.
The coalition urges citizens of the Commonwealth to be mindful of potential injuries and take steps to prevent them.
Injury prevention is extremely important at all stages of life,î said Dr. William Hacker, Kentucky public health commissioner. For many older Kentuckians, certain types of injuries can be life-threatening. Often, these injuries could have been prevented by taking simple, precautionary measures to avoid falls.
Not everybody has the same risk of injury, says Deborah Anderson, commissioner of the Department for Aging and Independent Living.
"We know elderly people who have osteoporosis or arthritis are more at risk of severe complications from a fall," Anderson said. "We want to let our residents know that there are steps that can be taken to reduce these risks."
Nationally, falls are the leading cause of injury-related deaths among older adults. According to data from KIPRC, in Kentucky only one in seven older adults hospitalized because of a fall was routinely discharged to home from the hospital, compared to two-thirds of patients under 65. Similarly, patients 65 and older were six times more likely than younger patients to be discharged from the hospital into a nursing home for intermediate or long-term care.
"For older adults, lowering the risk of falling is essential to preserve health and independence," said Julia Costich, director of KIPRC and chair and associate professor, Department of Health Management, UK College of Public Health. "Simple steps can lead to a safer environment and greater self-confidence."
To prevent falls, older Kentuckians are encouraged to adhere to the following guidelines:
- Exercise regularly to increase strength and improve balance.
- Ask a physician to review medications to reduce the risks of harmful side effects.
- Have a vision check at least once a year.
- Improve lighting in the home.
- Reduce hazards in the home that can lead to falls.
- Ask a physician or pharmacist to review medications to reduce the risks of harmful side effects.
"These simple precautions can make all the difference when it comes to staying safe, healthy and independent," Hacker said.
View data on falls specific to your county.