Falls Prevention in Iowa
Did you know that every 15 seconds an older adult is treated in an Emergency Department for a fall related injury? Did you also know that every 29 minutes an older adult dies from a fall? According to the Iowa Department of Public Health, unintentional fall‐related injuries and deaths are on the rise in Iowa. For those over the age of 65, it is the leading cause of death.
With adults over the age of 65, many falls are related to chronic disease and deconditioning. The total charges for fall-related hospitalizations in Iowa average $92 million per year. In addition to medical costs, falls also contribute to a decreased ability to perform household tasks, a reduced quality of life, and may result in loss of independence.
Falls are a frequent complication of Parkinson’s Disease and preventing falls is very important. Recent studies have confirmed the high rate and high risk of falls of patients with Parkinson’s disease, even when compared with other fall-prone populations. The impact of falls is considerable, often leading to an incapacitating fear of renewed falls.
Two really important things is to work with your doctor to ensure that your treatments are optimal and to consult with a physical therapist who can assess your walking and balance. Physical therapists can help recommend assistive devices or specific exercises to improve safety.
The Iowa Falls Prevention Coalition provides education and information to help Iowans improve their flexibility and balance, reduce their fear of falling, and decrease their likelihood of experiencing a fall.
One of the goals of the coalition is to increase the number of older adults and adults with disabilities at risk for falls participating in evidence-based fall prevention programs around the state.
Three programs have been recognized specifically for their evidence-based fall prevention qualities as endorsed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Classes are offered throughout Iowa on an ongoing basis and there is a continued effort to increase the number of those classes offered in as many communities around the state as possible.
A Matter of Balance: an evidence-based falls prevention program for older adults who have sustained falls in the past, have limited physical activity due to concerns about falling, and who are interested in learning more about preventing future falls. Classes are held twice a week for four weeks and are taught by trained leaders in the community.
Stepping On: an evidence-based falls prevention program that empowers older adults to carry out healthy behaviors that reduce the risk of falling. Community workshops are offered once a week for seven weeks. In a small group setting, participants learn balance exercises and develop specific knowledge and skills to prevent falls. Workshops are highly participative and expert professionals are brought in from the community to address certain areas of fall risk.
Tai Chi for Arthritis and Fall Prevention: Tai Chi consists of slow, relaxed movements. Studies show that Tai Chi improves balance, functional mobility and flexibility, increases strength, reduces risk of falling, decreases pain, and increases psychological well-being.
By Trina Radske-Suchan, PT, CSCS, member of the Iowa Falls Prevention Coalition.