September 22, the first day of the fall season, is Falls Prevention Awareness Day, and September 20-24 is Falls Prevention Week.
Did you know?
- Each year, more than 1 in 5 older adults (age 65+) fall.
- One out of five falls results in a serious injury, such as broken bones or a head injury.
- Annually, 3 million older adults are treated in the emergency department (ED) for fall-related injuries.
- More than 800,000 people are hospitalized every year because of a fall injury — most often because of a head injury or a hip fracture.
- More than 95% of hip fractures are the result of falling.
These statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Council on Aging show how common falling is among older adults, and how dangerous it can be.
We work with a number of resources within the Gig Harbor community to raise awareness among Heron’s Key residents about what they can do to keep from falling and possibly ending up with a serious injury. In fact, we’re promoting fall prevention awareness throughout the month of September!
Read on to find out what we have planned.
This Year’s Fall Prevention Awareness Activities At Heron’s Key
September 2-3 – Heron’s Key Fitness Expo
We’re kicking off our Falls Prevention Month with a Fitness Expo. Residents who attend will be able to assess their fitness level based on national standards.
The five tests offered at the expo are quick and simple. Still, they can reveal areas that might need some extra attention and effort. Areas such as core stability and balance can make a big difference in preventing falls.
Residents who have done this assessment before can check their progress from earlier evaluations to see whether they’ve improved. Those who will be doing the assessment for the first time can use this as a baseline for future comparisons.
For residents with low scores in any of the areas measured, our fitness specialists will advise them about classes they can take here at Heron’s Key to improve their level of fitness.
September 15 – Presentation by the fire department
We’re partnering with Gig Harbor Fire and Medic One, as we have in years past.
Tina Curran, who’s their Prevention Specialist, will be on site to give a presentation on how to avoid falling at home. The title of this year’s presentation is “Own It: Embracing Your Role in Fall Prevention.” She’ll cover areas that often have an impact on fall prevention, such as fitness issues, prescription medications and vision problems.
She’ll also provide information about other useful resources for those who are interested in taking their fall prevention efforts further.
September 21 – Presentation by Select Rehabilitation
We’ve recently contracted with Select Rehabilitation to provide on-site rehabilitation services for our community.
While the Select Rehabilitation team most frequently provides those services to residents receiving skilled nursing care at Penrose Harbor, they also work one on one with residents in our independent living area who have doctor’s orders for occupational or physical therapy.
In doing so, they offer suggestions to residents about proactively engaging in wellness activities that can help prevent falls.
We’ll be welcoming an expert from Select Rehabilitation on September 21 to give a presentation called “Indoor Landscapes: Actively Reduce the Risk of Falls in Your Own Home.” Residents can learn about how they can create a safer home environment.
Select Rehabilitation also offers other presentations and workshops throughout the year. For example, they recently had residents bring their walkers and other walking assistance devices to an on-site workshop so they could determine whether the device was a good fit for the resident.
Statistics At The Local And State Level
Normally, we would also have a health professional from the ED at St. Anthony Hospital in Gig Harbor come speak to our community about fall prevention.
This time last year, we were still restricting visitors to those who were deemed essential. This year, in light of the surge in COVID-19 cases, we won’t be asking the hospital to spread its resources any thinner than they already are.
When we had the St. Anthony’s presentation in 2019, we learned that:
- The most common visit to St. Anthony Hospital’s ED is for patients age 65 or older who fell.
- Falls are the No. 1 reason for trauma visits to St. Anthony Hospital’s ED in this age group.
- In Washington State, 1 in 3 residents age 65 or older fall each year.
- Falls and fall-related injuries account for more than half of injury-related deaths in our state.
Preventing Falls Is An Everyday Thing At Heron’s Key
As you would expect, we went to great lengths during the planning stages to ensure that Heron’s Key is as safe as possible for those who live and work here.
We designed our residences and common areas with walking assistance devices and wheelchairs in mind. Features such as ADA-accessible door frames, spacious hallways and non-slip flooring can easily accommodate residents who use walkers and wheelchairs for improved mobility.
Many of our residences, such as the Discovery floor plan apartment homes, feature handrails and walk-in showers to help residents avoid slipping.
We are also vigilant about our outdoor areas to keep them free of potential fall hazards. The resident volunteers who maintain the trail surrounding our community are equally diligent in their efforts.
What Happens When A Resident Does Fall?
No matter how careful you are or how much you “fall proof” your home, a fall can still occur. It can be the result of something as simple as a pet getting underfoot.
When a resident at Heron’s Key falls and is unable to easily get up on their own, we obviously get immediate assistance from the fire department. (We don’t try to move them ourselves, in case there are injuries that might be exacerbated.)
After the resident has received any necessary treatment and is ready to resume his or her usual activities, we work with them to see how we can keep another fall from happening in the future.
“Our goal is to try to identify, early on, are there some prevention techniques that could be put in place to avoid this?” said Sarah Whitmarsh, our Director of Resident Services.
We ask them if they would like to have an occupational therapy (OT) consultation. If they do, we ask if we can get a prescription from their doctor for a therapist from Select Rehabilitation to come spend some time in their home. That way, the therapist can offer suggestions that might prevent a recurrence, such as rearranging a few pieces of furniture or using a different electrical outlet to charge their cell phone.
A Proactive, Personalized Approach
It helps residents process what their triggers are and learn what resources are available to them so they can maintain their independence, Sarah said. From there, we can work with them to figure out a plan.
“We try to take a really proactive approach with those events that help them connect with those resources,” she added.
“The nice part about Heron’s Key is that rehab is right here on our campus, so [the residents] don’t have to drive,” she said. “They can either go to the clinic, or they can have someone come to their home.”
“Plus, since we’re a type A Life Care community, we have a commitment to help Heron’s Key residents for life. We have an interdisciplinary team that supports them as they go through health changes,” Sarah noted. “They don’t have to go anywhere else.
“If we have a resident whose health is changing and there are more falls occurring, we take a proactive approach that involves a number of our staff members, including the clinical team at Penrose Harbor. We want to ensure that we’re doing everything we can to support the safety and independence of that individual.”
Sarah pointed out that there’s “an accountability factor” at Heron’s Key as well. What she was referring to is that friends and neighbors within the community will stop by or call to remind someone if, say, they’re going to a fitness class together.
“It’s a huge part of what makes this community really special,” she said. “That they care for each other. And having all of those programming opportunities available to them every day as part of their Life Care.”
You, Too, Can Reduce Your Odds Of Falling
Naturally, we’d love to welcome you to our community as a new resident. Then, you could take advantage of all we’ve just written about, and so much more. If and when you’re ready to come take a tour, know that we’re glad to set up a time and answer any questions you might have. Just let us know that you’d like to start the conversation.
In the meantime, there are many online resources you can turn to for information about fall prevention. The CDC has a wealth of information about adult fall prevention. So does the National Institute on Aging.
Another resource is our blog post from last September, which is about a holistic approach to wellness. It specifically addresses fall prevention and how you can make your living environment safer.
With the first day of fall just around the corner, we’ll take this opportunity to wish you a happy and safe autumn!