Written By: Chrissy Pearson, NC Department of Health & Human Services
RALEIGH- The most recent data available show that the leading cause of injury death to senior citizens in 69 North Carolina counties is falls, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) today reported. In all 100 counties, falls were the No. 1 reason seniors visited emergency departments and the top reason they were hospitalized. According to national reports, every 17 seconds an older adult is treated in a hospital emergency department for injuries related to a fall.
During 2007 to 2009 in North Carolina, nearly 1,600 people 65 and older died as a result of a fall. Some 55,000 were hospitalized and more than 135,000 sought treatment at a hospital emergency department.
During this week of Sept. 17-22 designated as Falls Prevention Awareness Week, DHHS Secretary Al Delia urges senior citizens, their families and caregivers to be aware of the household dangers that can lead to fatal or debilitating falls.
"Fall injuries can have long-term consequences for senior citizens - often leading to a loss of independence and earlier admission to nursing homes. On top of that, many falls can be fatal," Secretary Delia said. "With North Carolina's rapidly growing aging population, it is critical for us to educate individuals and caregivers about ways to prevent falls."
Because most falls occur at home, DHHS recommends simple steps you can take to prevent dangerous falls.
• Lighting. Make sure that you have good, bright lighting in your home. Use night-lights in your bedroom, hall and bathroom.
• Rugs. Make sure rugs are firmly fastened to the floor or use nonskid backing. Tack down loose ends.
• Electrical cords. Move electrical or phone cords so they are not lying on the floor in walking areas. Do not run cords under rugs.
• Bathroom. Put grab bars in your bathroom for support when moving on or off the toilet, or stepping into the tub or shower. Consider using a seat while showering for a safe, stable position for washing legs and feet.
• Stairs/stairwells. Install handrails on both sides of stairwells. Be sure the stairs are well lit.
• Kitchen. Store items within easy reach and avoid using stepstools or stepladders. Keep items that you use near where you use them.
• Phone. Add cordless phones so that you have a phone in easy reach to place or answer calls. Make sure the phone near the bed is a corded phone that will work even when power is out.
• Footwear. Wear shoes with firm non-skid, non-friction soles. Avoid wearing loose-fitting slippers.
DHHS participates in the North Carolina Falls Prevention Coalition, a group that works to increase awareness of falls in the senior population, to promote multidisciplinary strategies to prevent falls, and to encourage North Carolinians to take steps to protect those who are at increased risk of falling. The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services provides financial support for Senior Centers across the state that offer education, support, and wellness activities for older adults. To find a senior center in your area, visit www.ncdhhs.gov/aging/scenters/sccty.htm.
County-by-County Data on fall emergency department visits, hospitalizations, and deaths is available here: www.injuryfreenc.ncdhhs.gov/DataSurveillance/Top5TablesByCountyages65+2007-2009c.pdf.
NC Dept. of Health & Human Services