Seniors can reduce risk of falls with proper safety, exercise

According to the National Council on Aging, falls are the leading cause of fatal injury for older adults. An older adult is treated every 11 seconds in the emergency room for a fall, and every 19 minutes an older adult dies from a fall.

“The highest rate for trauma at LMH Health is related to falls,” said Jacki Aldrich, chair of the LMH Health Fall Prevention committee. “When older patients fall, they don’t recover as well – if they recover.”

The Centers for Disease Control reports that each year, over three million people are treated in hospital emergency departments for fall injuries. More than 800,000 people are hospitalized each year for a fall injury, many of which are head injuries or hip fractures. Many older adults die from injuries suffered in a fall, while others have a reduced ability to live independently.

LMH Health is shining a light on falls during National Fall Prevention Week, September 22-28. The committee aims to make fall prevention a habit by encouraging staff to stop, take a timeout and create a conversation with a patient before they move from a bed or chair.

“What we found is that many of our in-house falls have to do with transfer of a patient,” Aldrich said. “In our outpatient clinics, they occur while moving from the waiting room to the patient area. Patient safety is our top priority, so we want to continue to reduce the number of falls at LMH Health.”

While falls in the hospital occur from time to time, many falls actually occur at home. The good news is that many of these falls are preventable. Take some time to ensure that you and older loved ones in your life are safe and aware about what to do to prevent falls.

• Enroll in an exercise program focusing on building strength, flexibility and balance. These three components are essential to fall prevention.

• Talk with your healthcare provider and ask for an assessment for your fall risk. Always report any falls to your provider.

• Regularly review your medications with your provider and pharmacist. Make sure medication side effects do not increase your risk of falling. Always take medications as prescribed.

• Get your vision and hearing checked annually and update your eyeglass prescription, if needed.

• Make sure to wear supportive, non-skid footwear.

• Keep your home safe. Remove tripping hazards, increase lighting and install grab bars in key areas.

Participating in an exercise program focusing on building strength, flexibility and balance can go a long way toward preventing falls. LMH Health provides fall education for community members through “Stepping On,” a multi-week class offered at the Lawrence Public Library. Trained registered nurses from LMH Health Community Outreach & Engagement and the LMH Health Trauma team teach the class.

“Combining balance and strength exercises, as well as education about fall risk and how to reduce this, are the keys to keep older adults from having a fall,” said Aynsley Anderson, LMH Health Community Outreach & Engagement specialist. “This program has been scientifically proven by researchers to reduce falls by over 30 percent in participants.”

The class series will be offered several times a year. Many classes will take place at the locations of community partners, including the Lawrence Public Library and the Senior Resource Center for Douglas County. The next class series takes place at the library from 9:30-11:30 a.m. on Wednesdays, beginning September 25 through October 30. The fee for the series is $35. To learn more about the class or to enroll, visit or call 785-505-5800. Act fast – enrollment closes September 23.

— Autumn Bishop is marketing communications manager for LMH Health, which is a major sponsor of Lawrence Journal-World’s health section.


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