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Kentucky: Helping Prevent Senior Falls

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

Falls in the home are a significant and under-recognized health issue for older Kentuckians, causing many life-threatening injuries each year among the state’s senior citizens.

To further address the seriousness of falls, the Kentucky Injury Prevention and Research Center (KIPRC) organized the Safe Aging Coalition along with several agencies and organizations, including the Kentucky Department for Public Health (DPH), the Kentucky Pharmacists Association, the University of Kentucky College of Public Health, the Kentucky Department for Community Based Services (DCBS), the Kentucky Department for Aging and Independent Living (DAIL), the American Association for Retired Persons (AARP), Cardinal Hill Rehabilitation Hospital and Hospice of the Bluegrass. The purpose of the coalition is to form a more comprehensive and collaborative approach to keeping seniors healthy and independent by identifying and reducing risk factors for falling.

The coalition also urges residents of the commonwealth to be mindful of potential injuries and take steps to prevent them.

“Injury prevention is extremely important at all stages of life,” said DPH Commissioner William D. Hacker, M.D. “For many older Kentuckians, certain types of injuries can be life threatening. Often, these are injuries that could have been prevented by taking simple, precautionary measures to avoid falls.”

“We know elderly people who have osteoporosis or arthritis are more at-risk of severe complications for a fall,” said DAIL Commissioner Deborah Anderson. “We want to let our residents know that there are steps that can be taken to reduce these risks.”

Nationally, falls are the leading cause of injury-related deaths among older adults. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in three Americans age 65 and older experiences a fall each year.

According to KIPRC, in Kentucky, only one in seven older adults hospitalized due to a fall was routinely discharged home from the hospital, compared to two-thirds of patients under 65. Similarly, patients 65 and older were six times more likely than younger patients to be discharged from the hospital into a nursing home for intermediate or long-term care.

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“For older adults, lowering the risk of falling is essential to preserve health and independence," said Julia Costich, director of KIPRC and chair and associate professor, Department of Health Management, UK College of Public Health. "Simple steps can lead to a safer environment and greater self-confidence.”

To prevent falls, older Kentuckians should adhere to the following guidelines:

− Exercise regularly to increase strength and improve balance.

− Ask a physician to review medications to reduce the risk of harmful side effects.

− Have a vision check at least once a year.

− Improve lighting in the home.

− Reduce hazards in the home that can lead to falls.

− Have a physician or pharmacist review medications to reduce the risk of harmful side effects, such as falls.

“These simple precautions can make all the difference when it comes to staying safe, healthy and independent,” said Hacker.