Falls prevention week provides important reminders that can make a big difference

Published: Sep. 19, 2023 at 4:56 PM CDT
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KCTV) - Fall begins on Saturday and health experts are using the week leading up to the change of seasons as a reminder the need to take steps to prevent falls.

More than 3 million seniors in the US need emergency treatment every year after falling, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Injuries from falls can result in bruises and pain to much more serious injuries such as broken bones and head injuries. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says a fall can have a huge impact on a person’s independence. Falling once can double your chances of falling again.

Data provided by the CDC shows that in 2021 alone, more than 1,200 seniors living in Kansas and Missouri died from injuries suffered during a fall.

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According to Dr. Lee Norman, Senior Medical Director of OptumCare Kansas City, there are several risk factors that can contribute to your likelihood of falling. Some can be easily improved.

Norman suggests wearing proper shoes with non-skid soles. He also says older people should never take stairs while only wearing socks.

Make regular appointments with a primary health provider and an eye doctor. Norman suggests making sure your classes or contacts are current with your latest prescription to avoid vision issues that could contribute to falls.

Know the side effects of medications. Even some over-the-counter pills can impact a person’s balance. If you notice recent dizzy spells, make sure to contact your doctor, Norman says.

As we grow older, many people become weaker. Legs that aren’t as strong as they used to be also increases the risk of falling, according to Dr. Norman. He suggests using a cane or a walker to help with balance and decrease the risk of falling.

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Falls sometimes just happen, even when precautions are taken.

Norman says if you fall, take deep breaths and try to relax. Then assess if you’re injured. Don’t get up too quickly because you could make an injury worse.

Roll to your side and rest, if you can. Then slowly got to your hands and knees, Norman suggests. From there crawl to a sturdy chair to help you move into a kneeling position. Then rise the rest of the way and sit in the chair, if you can.

If you can’t get up on your own after falling, don’t. Norman says to call 911 and wait for help to arrive.

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OptumCare Kansas City has more advice on a variety of health-related topics available online at optumkc.com.