Missouri Stands Up To Elderly Falls

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Slips and falls now rank as the leading cause of injury deaths among people 65 and older, and Missouri's rate of death by falling is 31 percent higher than the national average. Those sobering statistics illustrate the size of the problem and the enormous costs that falls have on society, said Margaret Donnelly, director of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.

Public and private health groups have joined together to sponsor Falls Prevention Awareness Day on Sept. 22 in an effort to show that falls can be prevented and are not a natural part of aging.

"We need to do more to educate the public about the serious problem of falls in older people, and how family, friends, caregivers and the elderly themselves can prevent falls," Donnelly said. "Falls Prevention Awareness Day is a starting point, a way to educate people on the problem."

Gov. Jay Nixon issued a proclamation declaring Sept. 22 Falls Prevention Awareness Day. The first day of fall has been designated as a national Falls Prevention day. And more than 20 events are planned throughout Missouri to help spread the news that falls are preventable. Older adults can take five simple actions to protect their independence and reduce their risk of falling. They can:

* Exercise regularly. Exercise programs that increase strength and improve balance are especially good.

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* Ask their doctor or pharmacist to review their medicines – both prescription and over-the-counter – to reduce side effects and interactions that could cause dizziness or an unsteady gait.

* Have their eyes checked at least once a year.

* Improve the lighting in their home.

* Reduce the hazards in their home that lead to falls, such as loose carpets, lack of bathroom safety equipment, and slippery or uneven surfaces.

A list of Falls Prevention events is located at www.dhss.mo.gov . In Jefferson City, for example, an informational health fair will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Capital Mall Senior Center to draw attention to the problem. Activities will include balance testing, medication consultations, and bone density and other health screenings. A healthy-home exhibit will offer tips on how to prevent falls in one's home.

The events are sponsored by the Show Me Falls-Free Missouri Coalition, a group of more than 20 associations that works to reduce falls and fall-related injuries among older adults.

Members include the Clay County Public Health Center, the Missouri Alliance for Home Care, the Missouri Association of Area Agencies on Aging, the Missouri Pharmacy Association, the Missouri Physical Therapy Association, the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, St. Louis regional OASIS, and others.

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