Falls Prevention
Falls Prevention Day is being observed throughout Penn Highlands Healthcare and throughout the U.S. on Friday, Sept. 22, the first day of autumn.

Falls Prevention

Falls are the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries for older Americans. One out of five falls causes a serious injury such as broken bones or a head injury. Each year at least 300,000 older people are hospitalized for hip fractures.

Most people think that falls “won’t happen to me,” but about 12 million people fall every year in the United States.

But falls can be prevented.

That is why every year on the first day of fall – Sept. 22 – Penn Highlands Healthcare and others across the U.S. bring attention to falls with National Falls Prevention Awareness Day.

Each of the Penn Highlands Healthcare hospitals will be offering free education on Falls Awareness Day on Friday, Sept. 22.

  • At Penn Highlands Brookville, from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., in the cafeteria;
  • At Penn Highlands Clearfield, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., in the lobby;
  • At the DuBois Mall from 7 a.m. to noon.
  • At Penn Highlands Elk, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the lobby of the hospital.

You can also visit a fall safety display presented by Penn Highlands at the DuBois Mall all month.

“Most falls are caused by a combination of risk factors. The more risk factors a person has, the greater their chances of falling,” Debra Thomas, RN, of the PH Brookville Falls Prevention Team, said. Some risk factors include:

Balance and gait
“As we age, we lose some coordination, flexibility and balance primarily because we don’t exercise enough,” said Sue Dixon, RN, of the PH Elk Falls Prevention Team. “Physical activity can go a long way toward fall prevention. Consider activities such as walking, water workouts, tai chi or yoga.”

Walking indoors in a school, gym or mall is safe if you are concerned about uneven pavement or weather. Penn Highlands Healthcare sponsors the DuBois Mall walking program which provides incentives as you complete quarterly walking logs.

“If you need an exercise program because you feel unsafe on your own, talk to your healthcare provider about a visit to a physical therapist. If you want to learn safer ways to do normal daily chores, ask for a visit to an occupational therapist,” Shelley Spicher, exercise physiologist, of the PH Clearfield Falls Prevention Team, said.

Some prescriptions and over-the-counter medications can cause dizziness, dehydration or interact with other medications that can lead to falls. “A doctor or pharmacist can review your medications for side effects and interactions that may increase your risk of falling,” Jocelyn Long, RN, of the Penn Highlands DuBois Falls Prevention Team, said.

“Make a list of your prescription and over-the-counter medications and supplements, or bring them with you to your next doctor’s appointment. Or bring them to the Penn Highlands Community Pharmacy at 621 S. Main St., DuBois, any Tuesday between 4-6 p.m. for a Brown Bag Day review. It’s free,” she added.

“To help with fall prevention, your doctor may consider weaning you off medications that make you tired or affect your thinking, such as sedatives and some types of antidepressants,” Leah Mannerino, RN, of PH Brookville Falls Prevention Team, said. He or she may also find alternatives to do the same job.

Vision problems
As we age, our vision may change. “The start of a cataract or eye condition may make seeing more difficult,” Brooke Feasel, RN, of the PH DuBois Falls Prevention Team, said. “Keep up with your eye care by having vision checkups regularly.”

We may also wear bifocals which can be a problem on steps. We may wear light-sensitive lenses which may not change back to clear fast enough upon entering a building. Think about and be aware of what can cause you a problem, and find ways to work around the issue. It could be as simple as giving yourself more time to be careful or waiting before proceeding until your dark lenses turn clear.

Foot pain or poor footwear
High heels, floppy slippers and shoes with slick soles can make you slip, stumble and fall. So can walking in your stocking feet. Instead, wear properly fitting, sturdy shoes with nonskid soles. Sensible shoes may also reduce joint pain.

Home hazards
“Take a look around your home. Your living room, kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, hallways and stairways may be filled with hazards,” Lisa Rorabaugh, RN, of the PH Clearfield Falls Prevention Committee said. To make your home safer:

  • Remove boxes, newspapers, electrical cords and phone cords from walkways.
  • Move coffee tables, magazine racks and plant stands from high-traffic areas.
  • Secure loose rugs with double-faced tape, tacks or a slip-resistant backing — or remove loose rugs from your home.
  • Repair loose, wooden floorboards and carpeting right away.
  • Store clothing, dishes, food and other necessities within easy reach.
  • Immediately clean spilled liquids, grease or food.
  • Use nonslip mats in your bathtub or shower. Use a bath seat, which allows you to sit while showering.

“Keep your home brightly lit to avoid tripping on objects that are hard to see,” Rhonda Chilson, RN, of the PH Elk Falls Prevention Committee, said. Also:

  • Place night lights in your bedroom, bathroom and hallways.
  • Place a lamp within reach of your bed for middle-of-the-night needs.
  • Make clear paths to light switches that aren't near room entrances. Consider trading traditional switches for glow-in-the-dark or illuminated switches.
  • Turn on the lights before going up or down stairs.
  • Store flashlights in easy-to-find places in case of power outages.

Lack of helpful devices
Your doctor might recommend using a cane or walker to keep you steady. Other assistive devices can help, too. For example:

  • Hand rails for both sides of stairways
  • Nonslip treads for bare-wood steps
  • A raised toilet seat or one with armrests
  • Grab bars for the shower or tub
  • A sturdy plastic seat for the shower or tub — plus a hand-held shower nozzle for bathing while sitting down

Make yourself aware of your risks and take steps to make changes. A few small changes now can save you from large, life-altering changes after a fall.

And to reinforce this message to you, a word search is located in today’s newspaper. Drop it off with your name, address and phone number to any hospital lobby, the Courier Express office or the DuBois Mall office or via US Mail to 204 Hospital Ave, DuBois.