The darting pet, hallway rug or late-night trip to the bathroom can quickly change from a nuisance to a life-changing fall experience. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one of four older Americans fall each year and a single fall doubles the chance of falling again.
Falls Prevention Awareness Week, held September 21-25, 2020, is an opportunity to raise awareness about how to prevent falls among older adults.
“Falls are devastating to individuals and families. When an individual experiences a fall, it has a domino effect on their quality of life,” explained Leacey Brown, MS, gerontology field specialist for the South Dakota State University (SDSU) Extension. “Beyond the challenges of recovering from a fall, older adults who have experienced a fall often develop a fear of falling again.”
In South Dakota, 37% of people are afraid of falling: a legitimate concern as the state rated third in the nation for most fatalities from falls. For Americans 65 and older, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported falls as the leading cause for fatal accidents and 3 million are treated in emergency departments for fall injuries each year.
“People tend to believe falls are a normal part of getting older.” Brown continued. “Many have a misplaced belief that reducing their level of physical activity will prevent a fall. What we know is lack of physical activity increases the risk of a fall and contributes to a vicious cycle.”
|South Dakotans have access to multiple programs from the list of national evidence-based options proven to reduce falls by building strength, balance and flexibility. A Matter of Balance and Walk with Ease both focus on increased physical activity and confidence to reduce fall risk, while Fit & Strong! is intended for those managing the symptoms of arthritis to reduce joint pain through exercise. Typically offered in-person, these programs now have self-guided and virtual platforms to increase availability.||5 Tools for Reducing Falls|
With effective fall prevention programs in place, several South Dakota organizations began discussing how to increase awareness, encourage fall assessment and promote program referrals. Recognizing the common goal, the group established the South Dakota Fall Prevention Coalition to reduce falls and fall-related injuries in older South Dakotans to maximize their independence and quality of life.
“The South Dakota Fall Prevention Coalition’s first effort is to increase awareness among those at risk for falling and those who can identify and support someone with a higher risk for falling,” said Brown of the group’s efforts. “Individuals follow the recommendations of their healthcare provider. By encouraging screening for fall risk and referrals to evidence-based fall prevention programs, we can intervene before the fall occurs.
In addition, the coalition developed a free Fall Prevention Toolkit as a resource for healthcare professionals to identify and support individuals at risk for a fall. Community or healthcare facilities interested in preventing falls are encouraged to access and distribute resources during Falls Prevention Awareness Week, September 21, 25, 2020, and beyond. For more information or to join the coalition, contact Leacey Brown at PreventFallsSD@gmail.com.