Falls Prevention Awareness Week, held September 20-24, 2021, is an opportunity to raise awareness about how to prevent falls among older adults. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one of four older Americans fall each year, and a single fall doubles the chance of falling again.
“Falls are devastating to individuals and families. When an individual experiences a fall, it has a domino effect on their quality of life,” explained Leacey Brown, MS, chair of the South Dakota Falls Prevention Coalition. “Beyond the challenges from recovering from the falls, older adults who have experienced a fall often develop a fear in falling again.”
In South Dakota, 37% of people are afraid of falling: a legitimate concern as the state rated fifth in the nation for most fatalities from falls. For Americans 65 and older the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported falls as the leading cause for fatal accidents and 3 million are treated in emergency departments for fall injuries each year.
Having done the research, Brown recognized a need and gathered a group of community and healthcare stakeholders to form the South Dakota Falls Prevention Coalition.
“Our first effort in the South Dakota Falls Prevention Coalition is to increase awareness among those at risk for falling and those who can identify and support someone with a higher risk for falling,” said Brown.
The coalition developed a free SD Falls Prevention Toolkit as a resource for healthcare professionals to identify and support individuals at risk for a fall. The collection of resources supports the coalition’s focus to reduce falls and fall-related injuries in older South Dakotans to maximize independence and quality of life.
“People tend to believe falls are a normal part of getting older.” Leacey expanded. “Many have a misplaced belief that reducing their level of physical activity will prevent a fall. What we know is lack of physical activity increases the risk of a fall and contributes to a vicious cycle.”
South Dakotans have access to multiple programs proven to reduce falls by building strength, balance and flexibility. A Matter of Balance and Walk with Ease both focus on increased physical activity and confidence to reduce fall risk, while Fit & Strong! is intended for those managing the symptoms of arthritis to reduce joint pain through exercise. Typically offered as an in-person program, self-guided and virtual platforms have been developed to increase availability.
With the help of healthcare providers, Brown considers fall prevention as the goal, “Individuals follow the recommendation of their healthcare provider. By encouraging screening for fall risk and providing referrals to evidence-based fall prevention programs, we can intervene before the fall occurs.”
Those interested in joining or learning more about the South Dakota Falls Prevention Coalition are encouraged to reach out to PreventFallsSD@gmail.com.