Meredith Gilliam, MD, MPH, was recently interviewed on WRAL on the topic of falls prevention for older adults. According to NC’s Division of Public Health, one quarter of North Carolinians 65 and over will fall in a year.
Falls are the leading cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries in older adults, causing 1,094 deaths, 18,771 hospitalizations, and 78,799 Emergency Department visits in 2017. That’s 21 deaths, 360 hospitalizations, and 1,515 ED visits weekly in NC due to falls.
Recently, with September declared by Governor Cooper as Falls Prevention Month, and with media attention on President Carter’s recent falls, the topic of falls among older adults has gotten a lot of attention.
As Dr. Gilliam notes in her interview, falls may be common, but they are not an inevitable aspect of aging, and they can be prevented. Falls screening and conversations with primary care doctors help to identify factors that contribute to falls such as medications, vision and gait issues, and unsafe situations at home. Exercise, strengthening, and balance programs – that are safely conducted – can reduce falls risk by up to 35%.
The Center for Aging and Health’s online Otago Exercise and Falls Prevention program has trained thousands of physical therapists worldwide to deliver a series of 17 strength and balance exercises in the home. The Otago site received a record number of visitors in the past month due to widespread interest in the increasingly important topic of falls prevention for older adults.