Many aging residents in Johnston County recently received colorful reminders to stay safe. During National Falls Prevention Week, Johnston Health is raising awareness by distributing fliers, fact sheets and paper placemats.
The National Council on Aging says falls are the leading cause of fatal and nonfatal injures in people older than 65. Every 15 seconds in the United States, an older adult goes to an emergency department for a fall-related injury, the agency says.
“It’s a serious and growing problem,” said Linda Allen, chief nursing officer for Johnston Health. “A fall can cause serious injuries, including cuts, brain injuries and broken hips.”
Through the hospital’s campaign, Allen is hopeful family members, aging adults and professionals who care for them can join together in getting out the message about falls.
Allen said the staff at Johnston Medical Center-Smithfield places a high priority on preventing falls.
“We assess the patient’s risk as soon as he or she is admitted,” she said. “High-risk patients are identified with a yellow star on the door, and they wear yellow non-skid slippers. The yellow star triggers all staff to be alert and take extra precautions to prevent falls.”
What can you do to prevent falls? The National Council on Aging offers the following tips:
• Exercise regularly, with an emphasis on strength and balance.
• Ask your doctor to review your medication for anything that might cause dizziness, and safely discard any expired medications.
• Have your eyes checked at least once a year to maximize your vision.
• Get an assessment of your home and make necessary changes to reduce the risk of falling.
• Tell your doctor if you have any of the following risk factors for falls: a previous fall in the past six months, difficulty walking or getting out of bed, difficulty maintaining balance, feeling weak or dizzy or cognitive impairments such as Alzheimer’s.
Allen said the placemats will go on patients’ food trays at the hospital and at the SECU Hospice House. They will also be distributed to local senior centers and to residents receiving home-delivered meals. Fact sheets and fliers will be available in outpatient service areas, and story boards will be on display.
“Falls happen more often than you might think,” Allen said. “Statistics show that one in every three people older than 65 will fall this year. We’re hopeful that we can help reduce that number by raising awareness.