Milwaukee Health - - NU­TRI­TION AL­CO­HOL -

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 ◆

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