Falls are Leading Cause of Injury-related Death for Older Utahns

(Salt Lake City, UT) – The Utah Department of Health (UDOH) released a new report showing that while falls are the leading cause injury-related death and hospitalization for older Utahns, falling does not have to be a normal part of aging.

“Older adults want to stay active, independent, and safe in their homes, but many worry about their risk of falling,” said Sheryl Gardner, falls prevention specialist with the UDOH. “In fact, one-third of Utahns aged 65 and older will fall at least once this year. But falling is not a normal part of aging and older adults have the power to prevent a fall.”

Every week, 200 Utahns aged 65 years and older fall and are treated in an emergency department for their injuries. Of these, 63 will require hospitalization and three individuals will die from their injuries. Additional data from the report showed in 2016, Utahns aged 65 and older accounted for 77.8% of all fall-related deaths in the state.

“Our goal is to help seniors remain healthy and independent. One fall can be the beginning of a downward health spiral that may include limited mobility, dementia from a head injury, and complications from major surgeries like blood clots and seizures. Even minor falls can impact a person’s sense of safety and well-being,” commented Gardner.

Most falls can be prevented by removing hazards from the home and participating in regular strength and balance exercises. The UDOH recommends six basic steps to reduce the risk of falling:

  1. Begin a regular exercise program. Exercise improves strength and balance, as well as coordination which is vital to helping you stay on your feet. Local senior centers and health departments across the state offer free or low-cost exercise and falls prevention classes. To find a class, visit livingwell.utah.gov.
  2. Talk to your healthcare provider. Ask your healthcare provider if you are at risk of falling. It’s also important to tell your healthcare provider if you have fallen before.
  3. Review medications with your healthcare provider or pharmacist. Some medicines or combinations of medicines may make you sleepy or dizzy increasing your risk of falling.
  4. Check your vision and hearing annually. Ask your doctor to check your eyesight and hearing. Poor vision and hearing can increase your chance of falling.
  5. Make your home safer. Remove tripping hazards like throw rugs and clutter in walkways as well as books and papers from stairs. Install grab bars next to your toilet and shower. Make sure you have adequate lighting in hallways and bedrooms.
  6. Talk to your family members and ask for their help. A fall affects more than yourself; family members can help you stay safe if they know what to watch for and how to help.

For a copy of the report and how to prevent older adult falls, visit www.health.utah.gov/vipp/older-adults/falls.

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Media Contact:
Katie McMinn
(c) 385-272-6306