September 18, 2019 – The first day of fall, September 23, marks Falls
Prevention Awareness Day -- and Southeast Georgia Health System is encouraging
people to learn more about how to prevent fall-related injuries that affect
Did you know that falls are the leading cause of injury-related deaths
and trauma-related hospital admissions for older adults? According to
the National Council on Aging, every 11 seconds an older adult is treated
in the emergency room for a fall; every 19 minutes, an older adult dies
from a fall. And, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention, one-fourth of Americans aged 65+ fall each year. These numbers
are scary, but many accidents can be prevented.
Fall prevention methods and staff education regarding fall risks is a top
priority at Southeast Georgia Health System. “We use evidence-based
training tools with our nursing staff to prevent falls with our patients
that are at high risk. Patients that are considered a fall risk wear yellow
gowns and yellow wrist bands,” explains Ernie Stegall, RN, MHA,
director, Patient Care Services. “In addition, a yellow light visual
cue indicator is above the patient’s door so the staff knows to
take specific precautions to prevent a fall.”
The fear of falling can make it difficult for an older adult to stay active,
which can take a serious toll on their quality of life and independence.
But falls are not an inevitable part of aging and there are proven ways
to prevent them. Exercising, managing medications correctly, and making
the living environment safer are just a few tips. Stegall adds, “When
physicians recommend that a patient use assisted devices such as a cane
or a walker, they should continue to use them at home as well.”
Here are some common factors that can lead to a fall:
Balance and flexibility: As we age, most of us lose coordination, flexibility and balance primarily
through inactivity, making it easier to fall.
Vision: In the aging eye, less light reaches the retina making contrasting edges,
tripping hazards and obstacles harder to see. New research suggests hearing
loss can also contribute to the risk of falling.
Medications: Some prescriptions and over-the-counter medications can cause dizziness,
dehydration or interactions with each other that can lead to a fall.
Environment: Most seniors have lived in their homes for a long time and have never
thought about simple modifications that might keep it safer as they age.
Chronic conditions: More than 90% of older adults have at least one chronic condition like
diabetes, stroke or arthritis. Often, these increase the risk of falling
because they result in lost function, inactivity, depression, pain or
The good news about falls is that most of them can be prevented. Here are
six easy steps to reduce the risk of falls:
Find a good balance and exercise program: Look to build balance, strength and flexibility. Find a program you like
and take a friend.
Talk to your health care provider: Ask for an assessment of your risk of falling. Share your history of
Regularly review your medications with your doctor or pharmacist: Make sure side effects aren’t increasing your risk of falling.
Take medications only as prescribed.
Get your vision and hearing checked annually and update your eyeglasses: Your eyes and ears are key to keeping you on your feet.
Keep your home safe: Remove tripping hazards such as throw rugs, increase lighting, make stairs
safe and install grab bars in key areas.
Talk to family members: Enlist their support in taking simple steps to stay safe. Falls are not
just a seniors’ issue.
It is important to take action once you begin to experience mobility difficulties,
falls, or instability. Your doctor can provide a fall risk assessment
or refer you to a physical therapist who can recommend appropriate exercises for you.