Falls are the most common cause of unintentional fatal injuries in Hawai‘i, averaging more than 101 senior incidents each year. Falls are also the state’s leading cause of non-fatal injuries, resulting in nearly 27,000 emergency room visits and 2,600 hospitalizations each year.
Over 8,000 seniors over 65 are transported by an ambulance to an emergency room because of a fall injury. That is almost one every hour.
The risk of a fall causing a fatality increases dramatically with age, and the emotional and fiscal burden associated with fall injuries are staggering. But there are steps seniors can take to prevent fall injuries and fatalities.
If you do not pay attention, you will fall.
It is very easy to become complacent — even lazy — and cruise along in life with your loved ones. Although it’s fine to relax, being aware is crucial — and so simple. I am pleading with every senior that reads this story to get deadly serious about fall prevention.
Several factors can contribute to a fall — poor vision, diminished physical strength and sense of balance, dizziness as a result of prescription drug interactions and hazards such as electrical cords and slippery floors. You can trip over your pet or your grandchildren’s toys during a micro-second of inattention.
However, a majority of falls can be prevented by making a conscious effort to be more aware of your surroundings and your physical limitations. This is not easy, as senior habits die hard.
Before I list five simplest things you can do to reduce your risk for injuries from falls, I will point out two areas that are the easiest to avoid, and which are also the most dangerous. These are two of the simplest fixes to make to avoid a life altering fall injury for seniors.
1. Falls from ladders and trees: Each fruit harvesting season, the number of serious fall injuries spikes at emergency rooms all over the state. Do not climb into your favorite tree or on the roof to harvest the fruits of your labor without someone holding the ladder. Also, do, do not lean or stretch to grab that papaya, because you will fall. Be absolutely aware of your limitations.
Call a nephew, or son or daughter — someone younger than you — and ask them help you for a share of your bounty.
2. Falls in the shower or tub: Far too often, our kūpuna fall in the bathroom. Many years ago, my own father fell and severely injured himself in the tub. We did not find him for over 12 hours…
The simple installation of safety grab bars in the bathroom and anti-slip adhesives stickers in the tub or shower add much-needed protection.
It is an easy and inexpensive solution, especially compared to the hospital bills you will get if you don’t use them.
If you seriously injury yourself — and survive — chances are very good you may be permanently disabled, lose your independence, and never be able to use the restroom or shower alone again. It is devastating to have to depend on someone else to help you with your basic bodily functions.
THE FIVE FALL PREVENTION TIPS
1) Medications can cause dizziness that can lead to falls. Simply make an appointment with your doctor or pharmacist today to review your medications, including any over thecounter drugs and supplements.
2) Maintaining good vision helps with balance and safety. Paying attention to where you place your feet is important, and so is being able to see where you are going. Have your eyes checked at least once a year.
3) Balance and strength are essential to preventing falls. Be active and do simple movements every day to prevent a fall, including walking, gardening, yoga, swimming, dancing or taking a tai chi class.
4) Make your home safer by removing fall hazards. Keep pathways clear and the floor free of objects. Be aware that seniors can trip over anything from the grandkids’ toys to the beloved family pet.
5) Invest in and use a personal electronic safety device. This is absolutely essential for any senior who lives alone. It has been proven that wearing one of these tiny devices saves lives every day.
View either of these two fall prevention videos online: www.tinyurl.com/FallPreventionVideo.
The videos were produced by Edgy Lee, an independent Hawai‘i-born filmmaker.
As seniors we have earned the right to live a full and complete life. Do not shorten that opportunity by thinking a fall will not happen to you. Falls happen.
Call 808-733-9202 or visit www.nogethurt.hawaii.gov for a home safety checklist or a free safety assessment.
HAWAII FALL PREVENTION CONSORTIUM
808-733-9202 | firstname.lastname@example.org