The number of people in Wisconsin injured or dying in falls is growing, so much so that the Wisconsin Department of Health Services has identified fall prevention as a key initiative.
The statistics are telling. In 2008, more than 900 people in Wisconsin died because of falls. Nearly all these people were 65 years or older. Almost $800 million was spent on emergency room and inpatient hospital care related to falls and nearly 60 percent of those people 65 and older were discharged to a nursing home.
As you age, you become more susceptible to falling, and the chances of severe injuries increase. Falls cause more than 90 percent of hip fractures.
Falls can happen because of physical health problems such as:
- Cognitive impairments
- Impaired vision
- Lack of physical exercise
- Leg weakness
- Loss of flexibility
- Medications and interactions
- Poor balance
Falls can be caused by environmental reasons such as: throw rugs, insufficient lighting, cluttered walkways, stairs without handrails, extension cords and uneven walking surfaces. Even your dog or cat can become a tripping hazard.
Marshfield Clinic offers a falls prevention program, Stand Tall, Don't Fall. The program is designed to help identify problem areas in your home and physical health problems that may lead to a fall.
"A physical therapist can evaluate your strength, flexibility, walking pattern, balance and daily activities, to help you understand your risk for falling," said Mary Repking, a Marshfield Clinic physical therapist. "We can help create an appropriate balance exercise program and can recommend appropriate assistive devices such as a cane or walker."
You can do a lot to help prevent falls. In your home, remove hazards like throw rugs, boxes and extension cords. Install safety handrails on stairs and in hallways and bathrooms. Proper lighting makes it easier to see obstacles that may be on the floor. Outside your home, look for sidewalk cracks or driveway areas that need repair.
"You can focus on what needs to be improved most and make those changes one room at a time," said Repking. "Enlist the help of family and friends if changes are needed."
Staying active is one of the best things you can do to prevent falls.
"As you age, you need to maintain a level of activity that not only keeps you fit, but helps you maintain good balance, strength, flexibility and endurance," said Rajender Polireddy, M.D., a Marshfield Clinic internal medicine physician. "If you haven't exercised, then start slowly and gradually increase your activity over time."
For more information about fall prevention and the Stand Tall, Don't Fall program at Marshfield Clinic, call a nearby location:
Chippewa Falls Center 715-726-4155
Colby/Abbostford Center 715-223-6442
Eau Claire Physical Therapy Center 715-858-4610
Eau Claire Oakwood Center 715-848-4333
Marshfield Center 715-387-5529
Marshfield Plaza Therapy Center 715-221-8760
Merrill Center 715-539-0101
Mosinee Therapy Center 715-693-9188
Rice Lake Center 715-236-8217
Stettin Center 715-847-3796
Wisconsin Rapids Center 715-424-8668
Wisconsin Rapids Orthopedic Center 715-421-5257
Wittenberg Center 715-253-2119
Woodruff Center 715-358-0610