BY BARRY WARNER
The Rockland County Department of Health in conjunction with the Rockland County Office of the Aging and the New York State Osteoporosis Education and Prevention Program (NYSOPEP) sponsored a special Fall Awareness Day program at Helen Hayes Hospital last month. The Retired Senior Volunteer Program also cosponsored the event.
According to Shari Silverstein, Nurse Educator at Helen Hayes, the purpose of the program was to raise awareness. She encouraged all of the senior attendees to take home at least one piece of information about fall prevention.
Statistics from the Rockland County Department of Health say that an average of five seniors each year require hospital emergency room treatment because of fall-related injuries. These falls can result in a loss of confidence to function independently, and a reduced motivation to leave the house. After the first fall there is also an increased risk of recurrent injury.
Physical or environmental factors at home, such as types of ground surfaces, lighting and stairs can cause falls. But functional activities that also put seniors at risk for falls include getting out of bed or a chair, and improper use of a cane, walker or wheelchair.
Marie Kelly, Osteoporosis Unit Coordinator at Helen Hayes, demonstrated the technique of using a chair to get up after a fall saying, “To break a fall, put you’re hands out in front of you to absorb the shock. Also, ask your doctor for a physical therapy referral to learn about exercises to strengthen leg muscles.”
State Senator David Carlucci was also present at the awareness day and thanked the hospital for hosting the event. “Seniors are a growing demographic in the county and when education programs like this keep them healthy, millions of taxpayer dollars are saved,” said Carlucci.
For seniors looking to learn more about fall prevention, the Rockland County Department of Health is offering a free class through December 2012 called “A Matter of Balance”.
The class is held at various locations throughout the county. Trained volunteers teach the classes, which last for two hours each. Participants learn to develop their confidence exercises to increase strength and balance. They also get help with developing plans for changes in their homes that can reduce the risk of falls. For registration or additional information, call 845-364-2501.
The “Chore Service” of the Volunteer Action Center (VAC) offers free household repairs for seniors. Repairs include replacing light bulbs and smoke detectors, installing grab bars and hanging pictures to prevent risky behavior that may result in injuries from falling. Call the Chore Service at 845-364-2114.
Encouraging older people to participate in a range of physical activities and maintain safe home environments are two activities that can enable them to stay safe and remain productive members of the community.