GAINESVILLE, Ga. — Falls can be critical, life altering experiences, often leading to permanent disabilities which require lifestyle changes. Falls are the most common cause of injury in the United States. More than 2.3 million children ages 14 and younger are treated annually at hospital emer¬gency departments for fall-related injuries. Approximately one third of people over the age of 65 fall each year, and the risk of falls increases proportionately with age. At 80 years of age, more than half of seniors fall annually.
At Northeast Georgia Medical Center (NGMC), 37 percent of all trauma patient admissions are due to falls.
“The focus of our trauma program is to continuously work to improve our processes and the care we provide our trauma patients,” says Deb Battle, MS, RN, NP-C, program manager of NGMC’s Trauma Services Department. “An important component of this program is injury prevention and education. We’d like to prevent injuries from happening all together.”
The American Trauma Society (ATS) has focused its May 2011 National Trauma Awareness Month campaign on falls prevention. The ATS, along with NGMC, offers these tips for fall prevention:
• Install window guards or stops
• Keep furniture away from windows
• Do not assume a window screen is an adequate safety device
• Install handrails and extra lighting
• Keep stairs clear of clutter
• Install child safety gates at top and bottom of stairs
• Ensure clear paths around furniture
• Supervise infants and small children while on furniture
• Use bed rails and highchairs; always use the harnesses provided
• Secure rugs with non-skid tape
• Use slip resistant mats in kitchen and bathrooms
• Keep floors clear of clutter
• Wear helmets and knee/elbow pads when skating and biking
• Educate children where falling hazards exist
• Repair uneven surfaces on side¬walks, patios, decks and driveways
• Use anti-slip paint on steps
• Install extra lighting
• Store household items so that you do not have to reach, climb or stoop over
• Use reaching devices
• If you have to use a step stool, use one with rails
• Do not carry heavy items or items that cause you to become off balance
• Wear low-heeled shoes with nonskid soles that fit
• Do not wear socks without shoes on smooth floors
Below is a self test to determine if you or someone you love is at risk of falling.
ARE YOU AT RISK OF FALLING?
Fall Prevention Self-Assessment
- Do you take 4 or more medications daily?
- Have you fallen in the past year?
- Do you wear floppy slippers or a long bathrobe?
- Do you have trouble getting in and out of the bathtub?
- Do you have trouble walking without holding on to something?
- Do you have trouble getting in and out of a chair?
- Do you have trouble with your balance?
- Do you have throw rugs?
- Do you have stairs (inside or outside) without rails?
- Do you have clutter in your walking space?
- Do you have trouble seeing pathways or pets?
- Are you afraid of falling?
If you checked any of the boxes above, please review the checklist with a family member, friend or healthcare provider to identify and correct specific problems that may lead to a fall.For more information about falls prevention, visit www.amtrauma.org or www.cdc.gov. For more information about Trauma Services at NGMC, call 770-219-3840.