NMC Commentary

Can Falls Be Prevented?

Yes, through improved balance and strengthening at any age, falls and the resulting injuries can be prevented. The importance of preventing falls may surprise you and fortunately, there are simple steps and local resources available to help you avoid costly injuries.  Governor Scott recently highlighted the importance of this topic with a declaration relating to fall prevention and awareness. The Vermont Department of Health (VDH) says that “falls are the leading cause of both fatal and non-fatal injury for people 65 years of age and older in Vermont.”  In addition, their data shows that 2014 saw 20,293 emergency department visits due to falls resulting in almost $62 million in hospitalizations. Here at NMC, we strongly agree with our Health Department colleagues that “falls are not an inevitable part of aging.”  They can be prevented and given those statistics, think of the impact on quality of life and reduced healthcare costs that can result from preventing falls in our community!

The VDH website carries great information on falls and fall prevention and you can access it by visiting http://www.healthvermont.gov/emergency-preparedness-ems/injury-prevention/prevent-falls Here are four important and simple tips to get you started towards improving your balance and strength to prevent falls, from the VDH materials:

  • “Speak Up – Talk with your medical provider, family or friends about falling or fear of falling. Have your doctor check medications for any that may cause dizziness. See whether taking vitamin D supplements is right for you to improve bone, muscle, and nerve health.”
  • “Keep Moving – Find activities and exercises that help improve strength, mobility and balance. Consider joining a falls prevention class, such as Tai Chi, Matter of Balance, or other courses in your community.”
  • “Check Your Eyes – Have your vision checked once a year and update your glasses as needed.”
  • “Make Your Home Safe – Most falls happen at home. Keep floors clutter free, remove or secure small rugs, add grab bars to bathrooms, have handrails and lights installed near all staircases, and make sure your home is well-lit. Be watchful of pets who can get underfoot.”

At NMC, we believe prevention is the number one strategy to reduce the risk for falls. Our team of Physical Therapists in the Northwestern Orthopaedics & Rehabilitation Center is a tremendous resource. Consultation with physical therapist can help you take an individualized approach to what is best for you and how to live a long, healthy, life while fighting gravity and hazardous environments. This team also offers ongoing Tai Chi classes, which focus on increasing agility, balance, and strength through a series of movements in a community-based group setting. Based on a form of martial arts, this evidenced-based falls prevention program improves relaxation and mobility to increase health and well-being. To join in on this offering, please call us at 524-1064.  In addition, keep watch within the local media, NMC’s Insights mailing, the NMC website calendar, and our social media for other related offerings in the coming months – such as the “Fighting Gravity” workshop recently held in Enosburg, the “Stay Steady” education and screening recently held in Swanton, and other fall prevention and balance improvement offerings.

We are all aging and none of us can avoid getting older. However, we can embrace aging by taking  active steps to learn how to continue to lead active, healthy lives and reducing our risk for costly injuries from falls. Please talk to your primary care provider about how to prevent falls and how you can take advantage of local resources through the Northwestern Orthopaedics & Rehabilitation Center team and other community partners. At the same time, if you haven’t yet, join the RiseVT movement towards a healthier future by visiting us at www.RiseVT.com or connecting with us on social media or in person at one of the many upcoming events highlighted in the media.  Let’s age with grace and balance together!

— Jill Berry Bowen, NMC’s Chief Executive Officer