July 20, 2004

The major cause of fatal injuries for seniors can be prevented

NEWMARKET York Region Health Services advises that a fall for a senior can have serious consequences. Fortunately, like most injuries, falls can be prevented.
The statistics are cause for concern :
 1 in 3 seniors fall every year. Half of seniors who fall do so repeatedly
 1 in 4 of those falls result in injuries, including sprains, fractures and even death
 Falls are the leading cause of death due to injury among Canadians over 65
 In Canada, falls account for over 87% of injuries resulting hospitalization and 75% of deaths
 Many older people who survive falls never fully recover. They face chronic pain and reduced mobility to the point where they lose their independence and enjoyment of life
 Many seniors who fall live with an ongoing fear of another fall
 Falls are a serious burden on Canada's health care system. Direct health care costs relating to falls among seniors are estimated at $1 billion every year
 Canada's senior population will grow to 5 million by 2011. As the proportion of elderly in our population continues to increase, preventing falls takes on even greater importance
This concern is reflected locally, as well .  In York Region, falls are a major threat to the health and independence of seniors and are the primary cause of injury-related hospitalizations for York Region adults 65 years of age and over. Between 1997 and 2001, there were a total of 4,631 fall-related hospitalizations among the York Region senior population. In addition, an average of 20 York Region seniors die each year as a direct result of a fall.
The risk of falling can be greatly reduced by taking a number of simple steps:
Look after yourself
The best way to make yourself safe is to improve your own level of health as much as possible.  Maintaining a good diet, increasing your physical wellbeing, monitoring your health and being careful with your medications will reduce your chance of a fall.
Eat wisely
The foundation of good health is proper nutrition.  Six small meals a day rather than three larger ones provide the body with a more even level of energy.  As a senior's metabolism slows, this strategy will decrease the possibility of weakness, dizziness or tiredness that might result in a fall.  Eating a balanced diet such as ensuring sufficient amounts of Calcium and Vitamin D will also keep bones healthy and help prevent osteoporosis.  Osteoporosis increases the likelihood of a fall as well as increasing the severity of the fall.
(Falls prevention continued)
See your doctor
Seniors should also monitor their health by seeing a doctor regularly and having their bones, vision and hearing checked.  Falls are sometimes caused by medication or the interaction of medications. Seniors should review their medications at least annually with their doctor.
Stay active
Another important way to prevent falls is to keep moving and be active.  Gentle exercises like walking, dancing, gardening, yoga and Tai Chi help to tone the muscles, increase mobility and preserve one's sense of balance.  Exercise also clears the mind and increases mental focus by promoting relaxation and stress reduction.
Use walking aids correctly
A cane or walker should be fitted for your height.
Wear supportive footwear
Wear low-healed footwear with non-skid soles indoors and outdoors
Remove clutter
Clear objects from stairs and traffic areas.
Secure rugs
Avoid small rugs or mats that could slide or bunch up and cause someone to trip
Do a home safety check
Basic safety features for every home include secure handrails, well lit stairs, night lights, non-skid bath mats and grab bars.
Take time for friends
Research tells us that those who are isolated, lonely and less active have more falls and more serious injuries.
Avoid rushing
Rushing increases your risk of falling. Take your time.
Falls are both predictable and preventable. For more information on this or other health-related questions, contact York Region Health Services Health Connection at 1-800-361-5653 or visit www.region.york.on.ca.

Contact:  Kim Clark, Health Services, York Region
905-830-4444 Ext. 4101

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