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Health Dept: Injuries from Falls Leading Cause of Death for TN Seniors

Press release from the Tennessee Department of Health; September 23, 2014:

Falls Prevention Awareness Day is Sept. 23, 2014

NASHVILLE – A simple fall may be just a nuisance for many people, but for a senior adult it can be a matter of life or death. Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam has declared September 23, 2014 as Falls Prevention Awareness Day to promote simple ways to prevent and reduce falls among older adults.

“Falls and the resulting injuries can lead to loss of independence for seniors and disrupt families,” said TDH Commissioner John Dreyzehner, MD, MPH. “For any of us, a fall can range from a brief embarrassment to a life change, all in an instant. This awareness day is an opportunity for everyone, but especially for older adults and their support communities, to learn how to reduce fall risks so our seniors can stay independent for as long as possible.”

Falls are the leading cause of emergency department visits, hospitalizations and death for Tennesseans over the age of 65. In 2012, there were 212,254 emergency department visits; 17,629 hospitalizations and 590 deaths due to falls in Tennessee. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates Tennessee spent more than $400 million in medical costs due to falls in 2010 alone.

TDH recommends the following simple strategies for preventing falls among older adults:

  • Exercise regularly
  • Have annual vision checks
  • Review medications with your health care provider to reduce side effects
  • Wear sensible shoes
  • Use a handrail when on stairs.
  • Always use another balance point besides your two feet. Make a pact with your spouse, a loved one, or a friend to hold on to each other while walking.
  • Perform a simple fall prevention checklist to reduce hazards. The CDC has a checklist available online at www.cdc.gov/ncipc/pub-res/toolkit/checklistforsafety.htm.

In July, the Tennessee Department of Health trained 20 individuals to lead “Stepping On” classes. Stepping On is a comprehensive falls prevention program designed to change behaviors and increase self-confidence for people over 65 years of age and reduce the fear that leads to inactivity and withdrawal from social activities. Conducted by occupational therapists and other subject matter experts, the program consists of one two-hour session each week for seven weeks covering topics including appropriate footwear; household safety hazards; the effect of vision and medication management on fall risk; tips for staying safe outside the home; fall prevention strategies and how to cope if a fall does occur. Classes also feature fun, easy strength and balance exercises to improve mobility and self-assurance. If you are interested in hosting a class in your area, contact Terrence Love at Terrence.Love@tn.gov.

This year’s Falls Prevention Awareness Day theme, Strong Today – Falls Free® Tomorrow, highlights the important roles professionals, older adults, caregivers and family members play in raising awareness and preventing falls in the older adult population. Falls Prevention Awareness Day is sponsored by the National Council on Aging. Learn more at www.ncoa.org/improve-health/center-for-healthy-aging/falls-prevention/falls-prevention-awareness.html.