There I was, the Hawai’i State Fall Prevention Coordinator, fallen, spread eagled, with a dent in my car door in the shape of my own forehead. It happened so fast, one second of inattention and I was flat on the ground. And to make matters worse, I had just left the quarterly meeting of the Hawai’i Fall Prevention Consortium.

First, it’s important to know that falls are the most common fatal unintentional injuries in our state. Second, falls are the leading cause of nonfatal injuries among Hawai’i residents with more than 21,000 emergency room visits per year. That’s more than two falls every single hour. That’s a lot of pain, misery and money. And the majority of the fallers are 65 years or older. One single moment of inattention and, in my case, stupidity, and I fell. However, this fall (like most others) was preventable.

I use the word “stupidity” because I should know better. Someone called my name, I turned to respond, and continued to walk without looking where I was going as I tripped on a curb and ran my forehead straight into my car door. Had my forehead come in contact with anything other than the soft spot in the side door of my car …say six inches to the left where the steel pillar and door hinges are, I would have been severely injured. I was just lucky.

At 72 years of age, and with lousy balance, I cannot afford to make these mistakes. I know that we all have friends who have tripped, fallen, collided with their dog, slipped in their bathtub or in some other way fallen and severely injured themselves. We are all old enough to know better … we must stop being inattentive especially while walking. While walking, walk and watch where you put your feet. If you want to chat with a friend while walking make sure you are on a level path with no obstructions. Don’t stop walking, as it is one of the best things we can do to stay active and strong. Just be careful and don’t forget to raise your head and look several feet ahead now and then so that you can respond to obstacles or a change in terrain, grade and, yes, as with my case … curbs.

Four simple tips:

You can prevent falls and stay independent by taking these simple precautions.

1) Medication — Some medications cause dizziness,vwhich can lead to falls. Be proactive andvmake an appointment with your doctor or pharmacistvtoday to review your medications, includingvany over-the-counter drugs and supplements.

2) Exercise — Balance and strength are essential to preventing falls. Be active and do simple movements — walk, garden, yoga, swim, dance, tai chi — every day to prevent a fall.

3) Vision — Maintaining good vision helps with balance and safety. Be proactive and have your eyes and eyewear checked at least once a year.

4) Remove Hazards — Make your home safer by removing fall hazards. Keep pathways clear and the floor free of objects. For a home safety checklist, visit www.nogethurt.hawaii.gov.

Hawai‘i State Department of Health offices:

Oahu: 1250 Punchbowl St., Honolulu
Ph: (808) 586-4400 | Fax: (808) 586-4444
health.hawaii.gov

Hilo: 75 Aupuni St., #201, Hilo
Phone: (808) 974-6006 | Fax: (808) 974-6000

Kona: 79-1015 Haukapila St., Kealakekua
Ph: (808) 322-4880 | Fax: (808) 322-1504

Waimea: 67-5189 Kamamalu St., Kamuela
Ph: (808) 887-8114 | Fax: (808) 887-8118

MAUI: 54 South High St., Rm. #301, Wailuku,
Ph: (808) 984-8200

Kauai: 3040 Umi St., Lihue, HI 96766
Ph: (808) 241-3614

Generations Magazine - Fall Prevention - Image 01

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