HARRISBURG – The Pennsylvania departments of Health and Aging are marking the first day of fall as Falls Prevention Awareness Day. The departments join 43 other states in the Falls Free© Initiative to bring awareness to the dangers that older adults face if they suffer a fall.
Falls – many of which are preventable – are the leading cause of fatal injuries for those 65 and older and result in more than 18,000 deaths each year ? a rate that has risen dramatically over the past decade. When older adults fall, it often leads to a loss of independence, reduced mobility, and earlier admission to a nursing home.
“In 2008, more than 1,000 older Pennsylvanians died from injuries related to a fall, and hospitalizations from falls in adults 65 and older resulted in more than $2 billion in medical costs,” said Secretary of Health, Dr. Eli Avila. “We need to raise awareness of preventive measures to avoid injuries, reduce medical costs and save lives.”
Pennsylvania has more than 2.4 million residents over the age of 60, a number forecast to exceed 3 million by 2020.
“Approximately every 11 minutes in Pennsylvania, someone age 65 or older is hospitalized from a fall injury,” said Secretary of Aging Brian Duke. “Every week, approximately 20 older Pennsylvanians die from fall-related injuries.”
Studies show that a combination of interventions can significantly reduce falls in older people. Experts recommend regular exercise with balance, strength training, and flexibility components; consulting with a health professional about getting a fall-risk assessment; having medications reviewed periodically; getting eyes checked annually; and making sure the home environment is safe and supportive.
The Department of Health has implemented a program called “A Matter of Balance,” which is an evidence-based program designed to help people manage concerns about falls and increase physical activity. The program uses a variety of activities to address physical, social and cognitive factors affecting fear of falling and to learn fall prevention strategies. These trainings are supported by Preventive Health and Health Services Block Grant funds.
The Department of Aging also offers a falls prevention program for adults 50 years of age and older at senior centers and other community locations. The Healthy Steps for Older Adults program, which currently has more than 4,000 participants, is designed to raise awareness and assess risks for falls; provide activities to reduce falls; improve home safety; and increase physical activity to improve strength, balance and overall health. Individuals at risk for falls are referred to their physician and other programs to increase physical activity and lower their risk of falling. Find more information online atwww.aging.state.pa.us.
For more information, visit the Department of Health online at www.health.state.pa.us or call 1-877-PA-HEALTH, and the Department of Aging online at www.aging.state.pa.us or call the Long Term Care hotline at: 1-866-286-3636.