September 22 will be recognized, nationally, as Falls Prevention Day. “The Ocean County Health Department (OCHD) works closely with the Ocean County Office of Senior Services in providing education and programs to encourage older adults to adopt healthy behaviors, become more physically active, have their medications reviewed and make appropriate safety modifications to their homes to prevent falls,” said Ocean County Freeholder Director Gerry P. Little, Liaison to the Ocean County Board of Health.
“Falls are the leading cause of fatal injuries for Americans 65 years and older. Falls threaten seniors’ safety and generate enormous economic and personal costs,” said Ocean County Freeholder Joseph H. Vicari, Liaison to the Ocean County Office of Senior Services. “Many times, when an older adult falls, it can lead to a loss of independence, reduced mobility and early admission to a nursing home,” he added.
Jane Maloney, Director of the Ocean County Office of Senior Services, pointed out that:
· One-third of Americans aged 65 years and older fall each year.
· Every 15 seconds, an older adult is treated in the Emergency Department for a fall; every 29 minutes, an older adult dies following a fall.
· Falls are the leading cause of fatal injury and the most common cause of nonfatal trauma-related hospital admissions among older adults.
· Falls result in more than 2.3 million fall injuries treated in Emergency Departments annually, including over 650,000 hospitalizations and more than 20,000 deaths.
· Falls with or without injury also carry a heavy quality of life impact. A growing number of older adults fear falling and, as a result, self-limit activities and social engagements. This can result in further physical decline, depression, social isolation, and feelings of helplessness.
Maloney said, “Falling is not an inevitable result of aging. Through evidence-based interventions, practical lifestyle adjustments, and community partnerships, the number of falls among seniors can be substantially reduced. Experts recommend a physical activity regimen with balance and strength training with flexibility components; consulting with a health professional about getting a fall risk assessment; having medications reviewed periodically, getting eyes checked annually; and making sure the home environment is safe and supportive.” Maloney said that her office offers programs throughout the county, through the New Jersey HealthEASE program, that address many of these issues, such as the Move Today and Standing Tall Against Falls classes. Also, through the Ocean County Health Department, the Ocean County Office of Senior Services and Community Services, Inc., residents over the age of 60 can sign up for the Take Control of Your Health, a six-week program addressing living with and managing chronic illnesses, which is also a New Jersey HealthEASE program. Take Control of Your Health is an evidence-based program created by Stanford University.
Daniel Regenye, OCHD Public Health Coordinator, said, “The Health Department offers various screenings to residents at the Health Department, the County Connection and are offered to groups at their clubhouses, churches, senior centers, etc. The OCHD offers a Live Healthy Ocean County Program, which offers the Safe Medication Management Program in addition to osteoporosis and blood pressure screenings and the Mobile Stroke Risk Assessment Program. You can call 732-341-9700, ext. 7277 to request this program for your group. In addition, the OCHD Home Health Care nurses assess all of their older patients for fall risk factors in addition to educating and training caregivers and family members in strategies to increase their safety and fall prevention at home. The Home Health nurse may also suggest occupational and physical therapy to help patients with strength training and learning new and safe ways to perform routine activities of daily living.
Freeholder Vicari and Freeholder Little pointed out that both agencies are working to increase availability of evidence-based fall prevention and physical activity programs in community-based organizations serving older adults. Both agencies will continue encouraging fall prevention strategies that have a positive impact on the quality of life for Ocean County seniors by helping them to remain healthy, active, and independent.