Anyone can fall – but as we get older, our chances of falling and getting hurt increase.
Falls have the potential to disable people, cause physical and mental distress and reduce quality of life.
The facts show that one in three people over the age of 65 will fall. This is worrisome, especially in our region where the aging population is expected to increase by 22 per cent in the next decade.
In recent years, Eastern Health has registered close to 900 hospitalizations, including a significant number of hip fractures, resulting from falls. Hip fractures not only cause tremendous stress, but they can often times be fatal in older seniors.
Falls are preventable
The good news? Falls are preventable, and we can all take actions to stay active and independent.
That’s why a team of professionals – occupational therapists, physiotherapists, home and community care nurses among others – came together to develop a region-wide awareness campaign called Finding Balance.
“People usually fall from slipping, tripping or stumbling on levelled surfaces or from steps or stairs,” says Janice Field, regional health educator with the Health Promotion Division at Eastern Health.
“But the first step to avoiding falls is to understand what causes them,” says Janice. “For example, poor balance, decreased muscle and bone strength, reduced vision or hearing, or unsafe conditions – such as ice buildup in and around homes – can all increase the chances of falling.”
On February 19, Janice joined the Newfoundland and Labrador Seniors Resource Centre’s Mall Walkers Club in St. John’s to talk about falls prevention.
The club holds weekly walks at the Avalon Mall followed by a social and refreshments.
“Several participants stated that they had already fallen or knew someone who had fallen,” Janice recalls. “And they were very interested in taking home resource materials from the campaign.”
This group was a great fit for Finding Balance, especially since the program promotes one of the campaign’s key messages: to keep active.
“There’s no doubt, leading healthy and safe lifestyles contributes to the prevention of falls” Janice says.
Besides keeping active, the campaign encourages people to speak up about dizziness and to regularly check their medications with their health care provider.
“Individuals need to watch their step too, and choosing a shoe that fits properly is key,” Janice adds.
A regional approach
The following day, Sherry Kennedy, regional health educator with Health Promotion, received a warm reception when she brought the Finding Balance display booth to the Trinity-Conception Square Mall in Carbonear.
Various mall outlets even distributed campaign materials and encouraged their customers to visit Eastern Health’s booth to learn more about falls prevention!
“We’ve had black ice the night before and falling was fresh in people’s mind,” says Sherry. “We had close to 250 individuals stop by our booth and ask questions!”
Resources for all
Contrary to common belief, falling is not a natural part of aging.
To combat this notion, Sherry and Janice have not only taken the Finding Balance campaign to the community, but also to their colleagues.
Recognizing that falls prevention is important to various health-related disciplines, these two health educators offered webinars to other Eastern Health staff.
“Numerous colleagues participated, and the feedback was very positive,” says Sherry. “Many were excited about the Finding Balance resources, such as the print materials on proper foot care and footwear or the information on how to keep a home safe, which are available on request to health care professionals.”
“We hope the Finding Balance campaign helps to generate awareness, especially among those who are above the age of 55,” says Sherry. “And in the long run, we hope it helps to minimize the number of falls.” ■
For more information about falls prevention and Finding Balance, please visit: www.easternhealth.ca/falls.
Presentations will be delivered in communities throughout the region over the coming months. If you are interested in hosting a presentation or would like to request Finding Balance resource materials, please contact one of our regional health educators at Janice.Field@easternhealth.ca or Sherry.Kennedy@easternhealth.ca.
This story was written by Melisa Valverde, digital communications manager, in consultation with regional health educators Sherry Kennedy and Janice Field with Eastern Health.