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FALL 2013

Aging Well – Fall Proof Your Home

Getting older comes with a long list of health concerns: arthritis, cancer, dementia, loss of hearing, heart disease, diabetes, and the list continues … Proof that, as Bette Davis eloquently observed, “old age ain’t no place for sissies.”

With the long and formidable list of health issues facing seniors, there is one threat to the health and independence of older adults that often gets overlooked – falls. Falls can significantly reduce an older adult’s ability to remain self-sufficient, causing moderate to severe and even fatal injuries.

Emergency Preparedness Checklist

According the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) falls are the leading cause of both fatal and nonfatal injuries among older adults. One out of three adults (65 years or older) fall each year, but less than half talk to their health care providers about it. In 2010, 2.3 million nonfatal fall injuries among older adults were treated in emergency departments and more than 662,000 of these patients were hospitalized. People age 75 and older who fall are four to five times more likely than those age 65 to 74 to be admitted to a long-term care facility for a year or longer.

Women fare worse than men when it comes to falls. Rates of fall-related fractures among older women are more than twice of those for men. More than 95 percent of hip fractures are caused by falls. In 2010, there were 258,000 hip fractures; the rate for women was almost twice the rate for men.

According to Southern Nevada Health District health educator Mike Bernstein, after reviewing local injury and trauma data, the prognosis for older adults in Clark County mirrored the rest of the nation and it became apparent local interventions were needed. In order to expand its injury prevention efforts the Southern Nevada Health District joined with partners such as Touro University, the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health to create the Nevada Goes Fall Free Coalition. Through the program they have been able to offer educational and outreach opportunities to seniors.

Most recently, during Fall Prevention Week in September, the coalition utilized the CDC’s Stopping Elderly Accidents, Deaths & Injuries (STEADI) program to offer risk assessments at eight different sites, screening more than 162 seniors and ultimately recommending approximately 80 attend the classes associated with the STEADI program.

“A year later, participants of this program are 31 percent less likely to fall,” said Bernstein. The program offers exercises and guest speakers such as, physical therapists and pharmacists who address medication management. Bernstein said the goal is to provide the program more extensively in the community as well as offer additional evidence-based programs.

Emergency Preparedness Checklist

The coalition has already found great success reaching out to assisted living communities. “These communities are really open to our messages because it keeps their people healthy and it is a draw for their residents. They really go for it,” said Bernstein.

So what can you do about it on your own? Fortunately, this public health issue can be addressed through better education and by taking simple steps to make your home safer.

The following tips are adapted from the National Safety Council recommendations:

In the bedroom:

  • Place your lamp and phone close to your bed where they are easy to reach.
  • Sleep in a bed that is easy to get in and out of.
  • Arrange items in your closet so they are easily accessible.
  • Use a night-light.

In the living area:

  • Arrange furniture so you have clear pathways.
  • Remove area and throw rugs or use non-slip backing tape so rugs do not become a slipping hazard.
  • Keep electrical and telephone cords out of walkways.
  • Do not sit in chairs or sofas that are too low and make it difficult to stand back up.
  • Install light switches at the entrances to rooms so you do not have to walk into a dark room to turn on a light.
  • Remove clutter from all pathways within your home and garage.
Emergency Preparedness Checklist

In the bathroom:

  • Place a slip-resistant rug next to the bathtub so you can get in and out safely.
  • Use a non-slip rubber mat or non-skid strips that stick to the floor of your tub.
  • Install grab bars for support inside the tub and next to the toilet.
  • Replace glass shower doors with shatter-proof ones.

In the kitchen:

  • Never stand on chairs, boxes or tables to reach cabinets or shelves. If a stepstool is needed, use one with a bar that can be held.
  • Store food, dishes and cooking equipment within easy reach. Move items on high shelves to lower cabinets, shelves and countertops.
  • Immediately clean up any liquids or food spilled on the floor.

Stairs and steps:

  • Always keep all objects off stairs.
  • Fix any loose, uneven or broken steps.
  • Provide enough light to see each stair and the top and bottom landings.
  • Make sure all carpeting is firmly attached to every step, or remove the carpet and attach non-slip rubber treads.
  • Install handrails on both sides of the stairs and fix them if they become loose.

 

The Southern Nevada Health District’s Office of Chronic Disease Prevention & Health Promotion has identified programs and activities to help seniors prevent falls and injuries. To learn more, visit the Get Healthy Clark County website.

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