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North Carolina Observes Falls Prevention Awareness Week Sept. 20-26

Release Date: September 17, 2010
Contact: Julie Henry,  919-707-5053

North Carolina Observes Falls Prevention Awareness Week Sept. 20-26

RALEIGH – Gov. Bev Perdue has declared the first week of fall, Sept. 20-26, as Falls Prevention Awareness Week.  North Carolina joins 35 other states and the Falls Free™ Coalition in the effort to raise awareness of fall injuries and the serious problems they present for seniors. 

Over the course of a year, more than 40,000 emergency room visits across the state are the result of fall injuries suffered by seniors, according to the N.C. Division of Public Health’s Injury and Violence Prevention Branch. That’s over 110 visits each day. In 2008, 627 North Carolina seniors lost their lives due to a fall. In addition to the high toll on people’s health and well being, fall injuries are also very expensive. In 2007, hospital charges alone added up to more than $425 million statewide.

“Fall injuries not only reduce mobility for seniors, but they often lead to a loss of independence and earlier admission to nursing homes,” State Health Director Jeff Engel said.  “With a growing senior population, it is critical for us to educate individuals and caregivers about ways to prevent falls.”

Studies show that a combination of interventions can significantly reduce falls in the older adult population. Experts recommend a physical activity regimen with balance, strength training, and flexibility components; consulting with a health professional about getting a fall risk assessment; having medications reviewed periodically; getting eyes checked annually; and making sure the home environment is safe and supportive.

At senior centers across North Carolina, programs like A Matter of Balance and tai chi classes help older adults gain the strength, improved balance, and confidence to help them live healthier lives and preserve their independence.

“We need to raise awareness of prevention programs and opportunities available to seniors to encourage them to take part in those activities,” Dennis Streets, director of the North Carolina Division of Aging and Adult Services, said. “Many senior centers and community programs across the state offer opportunities for seniors to become more physically active. “

“Participating in some kind of exercise, like tai chi, which improves balance, can help seniors stay strong and help prevent a fall,” Streets said. “However, the general idea is to get moving, and if other activities like dancing or walking better suit someone’s ability, we encourage them to start there.”

North Carolina is part of the Falls Free™ Coalition, which includes 35 states and 70 national organizations, professional associations and federal agencies across the country dedicated to reducing fall-related injury and death among older adults.

Events for Falls Prevention Awareness Week are happening in many communities across the state. Contact your local senior center or Area Agency on Aging (AAAs) for more information.  Get a list of senior centers, or ocontact information for AAAs.

Consumers can easily find locations for evidence-based health promotion programs external link like A Matter of Balance and Tai Chi on the NC Roadmap for Healthy Aging:

We invite the media to share these tips for an at-home falls prevention program:

1)  Answer a few quick questions to see if you are at risk for a fall:

Do you sometimes feel dizzy for a few seconds after you stand up?

Yes    No

Has it been more than a year since you got your eyes checked?

Yes    No

Do you walk to the bathroom at night without any light?

Yes    No

Do you take four or more medications?

Yes    No

Do you worry about falling?

Yes    No

If you answered yes to two or more of the questions, make a note to talk to your doctor about falls.

2)  Take all of your medications out and look to see if they are expired. Get rid of any medicine that is out of date.

  • Don’t flush medicine down the toilet! 
  • Put all your old medicines (including liquids) in something you can throw out, like a margarine tub or plastic bag with a zipper top that will stay closed.
  • Mix the old medicine up with used kitty litter or coffee grounds—the idea is to use something nobody wants to get into.
  • Seal the container and throw it in the trash.

3)  Get a little exercise! Balance on one leg while doing everyday tasks, such as brushing your teeth, watching TV, or standing in line. Caution! If you aren't so steady on your feet, hold on to a table, chair, or counter for extra support.

4) An easy step you can take is to clean your glasses. Look how easy preventing falls can be!

5) Focus on home safety. Look around your home and see if there are things that could trip you up. Remove any small rugs that could cause a fall.
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