Fall related injuries for Vermont seniors age 65 and older account for nearly 5,000 emergency department visits, 1,600 injuries and 120 deaths each year. The Vermont Department of Health and the Department of Aging and Independent Living (DAIL) are working to reduce these numbers through practical life style adjustments and community services.
Gov. Peter Shumlin has proclaimed September 22 as Falls Prevention Awareness Day in an effort to unite professionals, older adults, caregivers and family members in preventing falls for older adults.
There are many things older adults can do to prevent falls, such as exercise programs that will improve leg strength and balance. Reviewing medications with a physician or pharmacist will help avoid side effects such as excessive drowsiness or dizziness.
“Older people should be sure their vision is checked at least yearly, and have up-to-date prescription eyeglasses,” said Susan Wehry, MD, Commissioner of DAIL. “Walking aids such as canes or walkers may seem inconvenient, but can be a major factor in maintaining independence.
“Another thing you can do to prevent falls is to begin an exercise program to improve your leg strength and balance. Vermont’s Area Agencies on Aging play an active role in offering falls prevention programs such as Tai Chi and A Matter of Balance.”
Physical activity programs improve balance and help build confidence to live healthier lives and preserve independence.
Home safety improvements can also make a difference. People living at home can take simple actions such as reducing clutter, eliminating throw rugs and tripping hazards, installing a second handrail on staircases and grab bars in the bathroom, and making sure there is adequate lighting throughout the home, especially on stairs. Family members should be involved in these actions and planning, and can be key partners in assisting older adults to stay healthy and safe.
For more information about elder falls prevention, call the Vermont Area Agency on Aging at 1-800-642-5119 or visit the National Council on Aging at www.ncoa.org.
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Media Contact: Vermont Department of Health, Communication Office, 802-863-7281