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Ohio Department of Aging Press Release

Sept. 15, 2011

State Falls Prevention Coalition to use first day of autumn to raise awareness of older adults' risks of falling

Five easy steps can help elders avoid the physical and psychological impact of falling


Issued jointly by the Ohio Department of Aging, the Ohio Department of Health and the Ohio Older Adults Falls Prevention Coalition

COLUMBUS - The Ohio Departments of Aging and Health will join the Ohio Older Adult Falls Prevention Coalition to observe Friday, Sept. 23 as Falls Prevention Awareness Day in Ohio and encourage all Ohioans to use the autumn season to educate themselves and their loved ones about the risk of falls and fall-related injuries that increases as we age. Aging and public health agencies and advocates across the state are spreading the word that many falls are preventable through five easy steps.

Falls Prevention Day Logo: Leaves are supposed to fall. People aren't"Falls are the leading cause of injury-related hospitalization and death among Ohioans age 65 and older. Falling can rob an elder of mobility and functional independence, and the fear of falling can lead to depression, isolation and feelings of hopelessness," said Bonnie Kantor-Burman, director of the Department of Aging. "The good news is that most falls are preventable. The Department of Aging is proud to be a part of the statewide coalition dedicated to raising awareness of falls and helping Ohioans identify risks and prevent injury."

"Falls represent a critical public health threat to older adults," said Ted Wymyslo, M.D., director of the Ohio Department of Health. "An older Ohioan falls every two and a half minutes on average, resulting in two deaths per day, two hospitalizations per hour, and an emergency room visit every eight minutes. These preventable injuries cost Ohioans more than $4.8 billion each year. Yet, falls are not a normal part of aging. This myth must be dispelled so older Ohioans can live independent, productive and healthy lives."

Five ways individuals and families can reduce the risk of falls:

  1. Increase your physical activity. Simple exercise, like walking or swimming at least 15 minutes a day can help build muscle strength and improve balance, which can prevent falls. Exercise programs like Tai Chi that increase strength and improve balance are especially good.
  2. See your eye doctor once each year. Age-related eye diseases, such as cataracts, macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy, can increase the risk of falling. Early detection is key to minimizing the effects of these conditions.
  3. Review your medications. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about the medicines you are taking and whether they may cause drowsiness or dizziness. Discuss things you can do to ensure you are taking your medicines safely.
  4. Remove environmental hazards. Look around the house for anything that could increase the risk of falls, including poor lighting, loose rugs, slippery floors and unsteady furniture. Remove or modify these hazards.
  5. Think, plan and slow down. Many falls are caused by hurrying. Slow down and think through the task you are performing. Be mindful of possible falls risks and act accordingly.

Individuals and families also can contact their area agency on aging or local health department to learn about available trainings and resources designed to reduce the risk of falls. Call toll-free 1-866-243-5678 to be connected to the area agency serving your community. More information on local health departments can be found on the ODH Web site at www.odh.ohio.gov.

Facts about falls and older Ohioans:

  • According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 30 percent of adults age 65 and older living in the community fall each year.
  • Falls are the leading cause of injury-related deaths and the most common cause of nonfatal injuries and hospital admissions for trauma in older adults.
  • An older adult falls in Ohio every 2.5 minutes on average, resulting in two deaths each day, two hospitalizations each hour and an emergency department visit every eight minutes.
  • Older adults account for a disproportionate share of fall-related injuries. While Ohioans age 65 and older make up 13.7 percent of our population, they account for more than 80 percent of fatal falls.
  • According to the Ohio Department of Health, fatal fall rates increased 125 percent from 2000 to 2009.
  • The total estimated annual cost of fatal falls in Ohio is $646 million, while non-fatal, hospital-admitted falls cost more than $4.2 billion annually.
  • More than half of all older adults who live in residential care facilities or nursing homes will fall each year.
  • Most fractures among older adults are caused by falls.
  • The risk of falling increases significantly after age 75.
  • Falls account for more than 90 percent of all accidental hip fractures.
  • Fall-related emergency room-visit and inpatient hospitalization rates are higher for falls than all other injuries combined.
  • For about 1 in 3 older Ohioans, falls lead to injuries that resulted in a doctor visit or restricted activity.
  • The causes of falls vary with contributing factors including lack of strength in the lower extremities, the use of four or more medications, reduced vision, chronic health problems and unsafe home conditions.
  • Many people who fall, even those who are not injured, may develop a fear of falling, leading them to limit their activities, which in turn, may increase their risk for falls.

About the Ohio Older Adult Falls Prevention Coalition - Comprised of professionals from health, aging and public safety agencies throughout the state, the coalition identifies statewide priorities for reducing the incidence of falls among older Ohioans and helps communities address the issue at a local level. They promote education and awareness, aid with falls prevention infrastructure building, help shape policy, develop interventions and risk assessments, and monitor trends. To join the coalition, visit www.healthyohioprogram.org/vipp/oafpc/oafpc.aspx or call 614-466-2144.


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