November is Fall Prevention Month
Colleen Lindholm | November 18, 2015
Falling is a year-round "reason" to see your doctor! With November being Seniors Fall Prevention Month, the Camrose Primary Care Network (PCN) Fall Prevention Team would like to remind seniors the importance of knowing how to prevent a fall.
According to the Canadian Patient Safety Institute, falls are the leading cause of injury among older Canadians: 20 to 30 per cent of seniors experience one or more falls each year. Falls are the cause of 85 per cent of hospitalizations for Canadian seniors. The average Canadian senior stays in hospital 10 days longer for falls than for any other cause. The cost to treat injuries from falls, is over $2 billion annually in direct healthcare costs.
Fall prevention isn’t just about stopping falls before they happen. It’s about continuing to enjoy life’s simple moments; it’s about playing with your grandchildren and keeping active with friends and family. Most of all, fall prevention is about keeping your independence.
In 2014, the Camrose PCN recognized there was a need in our community to offer education and support related to seniors falling and how they may be able to prevent falls to live a more independent lifestyle as they age. They joined forces with community stakeholders AHS (Home-Care, Healthy Living Centre, Addictions & Mental Health, Senior's Outreach & EMS) and Covenant Health, St. Mary's Hospital and collaboratively created a vision for a comprehensive fall prevention program. There was funding available from Covenant Health to support community initiatives such as this, so the Camrose PCN applied and received the news in the summer of 2014 they were successful in receiving in the amount of $91,000 Network of Excellence in Seniors Health and Wellness Innovation Fund.
The program, which rolled out in the fall of 2014, is designed for individuals age 65 and above who have had a fall or at significant risk of falling.
It has been very successful, with over 43 seniors accessing the program. "I can't believe there is a program like this – I'm stronger, more confident and more relaxed when I'm walking," states one program participant. "This program has restored my dignity," stated another.
With the objective of the program to decrease the number of falls for seniors, as well to help them maintain their level of independence, the Fall Prevention Team has been happy with the success of the program to date. "I have seen patients progress in their walking speeds, improve their balance reactions as well, people's level of confidence for all types of mobility has dramatically improved," says Connie Harrison, PCN Exercise Specialist and member of the Fall Prevention Team.
Stephanie Loosemore, Geriatric Assessment Program (GAP) Nurse Lead adds, "I have had patients tell me they are not afraid of walking on stairs anymore and they have hope in the fact they are gaining strength – not just getting weaker every day. That brings an enormous amount of job satisfaction - knowing we are making a true difference in people's lives."
Seniors can access the program themselves or have a family member, family doctor or healthcare provider refer them. They will start with an assessment with the GAP nurse who will determine if the individual is appropriate for the program or more suited to an alternate program in the community. If appropriate for the program, they will then be seen by Dr. Val Smith (Care of the Elderly Trained Physician) for further assessment and fall risk factors will be identified. From there an individual care plan is developed to reduce their risk of falling and subsequent injury. As part of a team approach to their care, the individual may work with the Camrose PCN exercise specialist and/or community partners trained in fall prevention interventions and risk reduction.
“Falls are not an inevitable result of aging, but the risk of a fall can increase as one ages. Older adults value their independence and a single fall can result in significant disability and loss of function. If you fall once you are more likely to fall again. There has been tremendous research and interest in identifying risks for falls and what we can do to lower that risk. A comprehensive falls risk assessment and targeted interventions for those identified at high risk is a step in the right direction.” Dr. Val Smith
An important piece of the program is to educate seniors on how they can reduce their risk of falling. With some planning ahead, seniors can take action:
- Watch your step!
- Watch out for ice, cracks and uneven surfaces while walking.
- Walk with your arms out to your sides for balance (not in your pockets).
- Walk flat-footed and take short steps and walk slowly. As you are walking - keep your head up and concentrate on balance.
- Ask your healthcare provider about which type of grab bar to use in your bathroom.
- Have your eyes checked every year.
- Wear shoes that support your feet and have a closed heel.
- Avoid rushing and doing too many things at once.
- Tell your family, healthcare provider or doctor if you often feel dizzy or lightheaded. There are many different causes of dizziness so it's important to know why you are experiencing it.
- Keep active! Regular physical activity and exercise can increase muscle strength, improve balance and help prevent you from falling.
- Check your medication. Once a year, have your doctor or pharmacist review all medications.
For more information on the Camrose PCN Falls Prevention Program and how to prevent falling, please talk to your family doctor or call the Camrose PCN West End Clinic at 780.672.5034