September 22 will mark the first day of Fall, and along with the change in season comes a change in safety focus. Over the summer, we focus on sun and water safety, but as the leaves start to change and we move to colder weather, falls become more of a significant safety hazard. Johnston Health will recognize National Falls Prevention Awareness Week from September 17-22 as we strive to educate our patients and community on ways to stay safe and prevent falls.
According to the National Council on Aging, every 15 seconds an older adult is seen in an emergency department for a fall-related injury. In people over the age of 65, falls are the leading cause of both fatal and nonfatal injuries. Falls can result in moderate to severe injuries such as lacerations, head trauma, traumatic brain injury, hip injury, reduced mobility, and loss of physical fitness. It is important not only to recognize what a growing problem this is, but to focus on education and implementation of the many successful falls prevention programs that are available.
What can you do to prevent falls?
- Exercise regularly, with an emphasis on strength and balance
- Ask your doctor to review your medication for anything that might cause dizziness, and safely discard any expired medications
- Have your eyes checked at least once a year to maximize your vision
- Get an assessment of your home environment and make necessary changes to reduce the risk of falling
- Tell your doctor if you have any of the following risk factors for falls: a previous fall in the past six months, difficulty walking or getting out of bed, difficulty maintaining balance, feeling weak or dizzy, or have cognitive impairments such as Alzheimer’s
In keeping with the hospital’s mission to improve the health of the people in our communities, Johnston Health continually strives to keep our patients safe from falls. All patients are assessed for their fall risk upon admission, and high-risk patients are identified with a yellow star on their door and wear yellow non-skid slippers. The yellow star triggers all staff to be alert and take extra precautions to minimize falls.
In addition to our regular fall prevention policies, Johnston Health will focus extra efforts on providing education and creating awareness during National Falls Prevention Awareness Week. Educational placemats will be placed on patient food trays at both the hospital and the SECU Hospice House, and will also be distributed to local senior centers and Meals on Wheels. Fact sheets and educational flyers will be distributed to patients in the hospital, outpatient areas, HomeCare, and Hospice. HealthQuest Wellness Center will be offering a free one-day trial pass to any community member to come try the Tai Chi land aerobic class or the Joint Action water aerobic class. These classes are designed to improve balance and range of motion, and include gentle strengthening exercises. In addition, the Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation program will be offering fall prevention education to enrolled patients throughout the week.
The risk of sustaining a fall-related injury is far greater than most people think. Statistics show that one in every three people over the age of 65 will fall this year, but through education and implementation of fall prevention tactics that number can be reduced. Take the time to speak with your family and friends about falls, and take the necessary measures to create a safer lifestyle and environment for yourself or others who are at risk.