Annie McNair scrambled around her Spring Creek Towers apartment getting ready to go see her mother who resides in a nursing home. When done preparing herself in the bathroom, she hurriedly walked out of it not paying too much attention to her surroundings. While walking through the apartment’s hallway, she tripped on the wire to a fan that was in use. The 67-year old fell onto her freshly waxed floor and in the process broke her toe. McNair is one of many older adults who have been injured in a simple fall.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, “More than one third of adults, over the age of 65, fall each year.” On Monday, Spring Creek Senior Partners (SCSP) held an information session “Strong Today, Falls Free Tomorrow” to take a look at the problem. The seminar coincided with Fall Prevention Awareness Week (September 23-29). “It’s the number one cause of injury related deaths,” said Theodora Ziongas, SCSP Director, who wants the community’s seniors to become familiar with ways to prevent falls and injuries.
During the session, McNair and other attendees learned there are ways to reduce the possibility of falling at home. It was advised to wear gripping shoes or socks that can provide traction while walking. Make sure to wrap electrical wires and cords around their connecting items or placed them so that they are not strung out across the floor. It was also noted that extra care must be given when walking on waxed or wet surfaces.
Kathleen Mangiaracina, a Physician Assistant and Trauma Coordinator at Brookdale University Hospital, led the discussion on how to prevent fall-related injuries among older adults. They, she said, can sustain fractures to their hips, vertebrae, forearms, legs, ankles, pelvis or hands as a result of a mere fall. “One-half to two-thirds of all falls occur in the home,” Mangiarcina announced. “Some of the common causes are tripping hazards, unstable furniture, spills and poor lighting.”
She advised that paths of light be created throughout the home, so when awaken in the middle of the night in a dark apartment there would be some light to see by. The path can be easily created by plugging inexpensive night lights into electrical wall outlets. The session’s attendees received gift lights from the Department for the Aging (DFTA) in support of SCSP’s entitled “Strong Today, Falls Free Tomorrow.”
Louise Copeland, 78, went to the hospital for an abnormal heartbeat after she fell getting out of her bed to go to the bathroom. She fractured her kneecap, which took six months to heal. “My legs were tangled up in the sheets, so when I went to get off the bed I fell and landed on my knee,” said Copeland whose knee is still not steady and must use a walker to move around.
One fall is all it takes to debilitate someone, says Mangiarcina, who often sees injured and hospitalized after a fall. She explained the chances of falling can be reduced if older adults work to remain physically fit. At the top of her list of recommendations is regularly exercising. Daily routines do not count as a form of exercise for most because they are not exerting lots of energy. “You have to increase your heart rate and break a sweat,” Mangiaracina explained. There is a variety of exercises suggested for seniors: chair yoga, long walks, dancing or Tai Chi. “Don’t overdo it,” she warned, a person can cause serious damage to their bodies by overexerting themselves. Exercise, she said, helps to keep the body’s muscles toned and they, in turn, help to keep the body balanced and not prone to toppling over.
Another recommended fitness measure is to have the eyes examine at least once a year. And finally, Mangiarcina added, reduce the clutter in the home. It is an important step to take to prevent tripping and falling.
By Amanda Moses, Agnes E. Green