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Stand tall, don’t fall

​​​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