Falls are the leading cause of both fatal and non-fatal injuries for Americans over 65. That’s a grim enough statistic. But this one is even more alarming: Wisconsin leads the nation in its death rate due to falls – at 135 per 100,000 senior residents. That’s why fall prevention should top every senior’s todo list. Jennifer Lefeber, evidence-based health-promotion-programs coordinator at Milwaukee County’s Department on Aging, encourages people to take a class before they feel it’s needed. “That’s why we call it ‘prevention,’” she says. The department offers free classes; for information, call 414-289-6352.
“People think you have to exercise – and you do,” says Lefeber. “The best approach is multi-factorial and has at its core increasing confidence.” She says a good falls-prevention program includes:
▸ Exercise that focuses on coordination, balance and strength, especially in the lower body ▸ Learning to recognize fall hazards (slippery floors, area rugs, cords, clutter and pets) and then modify them. Only 6 percent of falls occur in bathrooms, she notes.
▸ Vision testing ▸ Medical reviews, especially of prescription drugs that can cause drowsiness, dizziness or blurred vision
▸ Evaluating the need for assistance, such as a cane or walker or grab bars in the bathroom ▸ Home lighting inspection, including night lights in the bedroom and bathroom
▸ Physical therapy, if needed, to assess and improve gait ▸ Discussion of proper footwear, which should fit well and securely, have good treads and approximately a one-inch heel ◆