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Parkland experts say falls among older adults are common but preventable

Parkland experts say falls among older adults are common but preventable

Keep your loved ones safe by preventing injuries

Falls among adults 65 and older caused more than 34,000 deaths in 2019, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), making it the leading cause of injury death for that group.

“Preventing a fall should be the main concern for older adults, their families and caregivers. Creating a safe environment along with improving balance and strength can help decrease falls,” said LaTrica Rhynes-Hicks, PhD, Clinical Educator at Parkland Health’s Center for Geriatric Care and Healthy Aging.

Depending on the fall, an older adult can break their bones, leading to even fatal consequences in some cases. This can increase a person’s fear of falling resulting in them moving less, making them stiffer and weaker, according to Katherine Resop, Physical Therapist, DPT, CEEAA, CFPS, GCS at Parkland Health.

“The more active you are, the better reflexes you have. Individuals should practice strength training by doing simple bodyweight movements like using a chair to do squats and supporting themselves next to a wall and doing standing heel raises to work their calf muscles,” Resop said.

There are home fall prevention tips that can be implemented as recommended by the CDC.

  • Remove rugs, or use double-sided tape so the rugs won’t slip
  • Always keep objects off the floor
  • Keep things you use often on the lower shelves
  • Place nightlights if you are walking in darker areas
  • Wear shoes with a good grip around the home
  • Begin a balance and exercise program to improve strength, flexibility and stability
  • Talk to family members to get their support to help you stay safe

It is common to hear of older adults fearing losing their independence if they fall or have fallen and therefore don’t tell their family or caretakers of the incident. “It is important to speak up and tell your family or your doctor if you are afraid of falling or have fallen. The doctor can help figure out the problem and address it accordingly,” said Resop.

She shares that yearly, one-third of individuals over 65 have fallen and two-thirds of them will fall again within six months. “Make sure an older adult has a good eye prescription to be able to see clearly. Important also to check that their medication is not causing them dizziness,” Resop said.

One of the most serious fall injuries is a broken hip, which may require surgical intervention and physical therapy sessions and may lead to the older adult needing to use a wheelchair or walking assistance device.

There are also proactive actions that can be taken to prevent hip fractures based on recommendations from the CDC as follows:

  • Talk to your doctor or healthcare provider to evaluate your risk of falling
  • Get screened for Osteoporosis
  • Do exercises that make your legs stronger and improve your balance, such as Tai Chi
  • Have your eyes checked at least once a year
  • Make your home safer and get rid of things you could trip on

Every year, millions of people 65 and older fall, a rate that has continued to increase over the years, according to the CDC. If this trend continues, it is anticipated that seven Americans will die due to a fall every hour by the year 2030.

Parkland offers health services for seniors such as geriatric primary care clinics located across Dallas County. Geriatric care includes routine health checkups, sick care and management of chronic diseases.

Parkland also has a Seniors House Calls Program that provides medical care to homebound patients 65 years or older, such as medical care, social work assessment, referral to community agencies and nutrition support.

In an effort to expand health services, Parkland offers a variety of health and education screenings and community resources in several neighborhoods across Dallas County through the Access to Care & Coverage Program. All services at the nine community hubs are at no cost to the individual.

Hours and days of operation at each community hub vary:

  • Bonton Farms (inside the green mobile unit), 2612 Valentine St., Dallas, 75212, Fridays, 2-4 p.m.
  • Janie C. Turner Recreation Center, 6424 Elam Rd., Dallas, 75217, Every 2nd and 4th Wednesday, 9:30 a.m.-3 p.m.
  • John C. Phelps Recreation Center, 3030 Tips Blvd., Dallas, 75216, Every Thursday, 3:30-6 p.m.
  • DHA Buckeye Commons, 6676 Buckeye Commons Way, Dallas, 75215, Every Thursday, 9 a.m.-12 p.m.
  • Inspired Vision Compassion Center, 2019 N. Masters Dr., Dallas, 75217, Every Tuesday, 9:30 a.m.-4 p.m.
  • CitySquare, 1610 S. Malcolm X Blvd., Dallas, 75226, Every Wednesday, 9 a.m.-12 p.m.
  • DHA Park Manor, 3333 Edgewood St., Dallas, 75215, Every Thursday, 1-4 p.m.
  • Catholic Charities Marillac Community Center, 2483 Lapsley St., Dallas, 75212, Every Friday, 9 a.m.-1 p.m.

For more information about Parkland’s Geriatric Services, visit www.parklandhealth.org/geriatrics.

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