UW Medicine to Hold Fall Prevention Fairs in Local Communities on September 20
UW Medicine will hold free Fall Prevention fairs at locations throughout the Puget Sound area on Thursday, September 20. This day has been designated as Fall Prevention Awareness Day by Governor Chris Gregoire.
Falls are the leading cause of injury-related hospitalizations for people over the age of 65. According to the Washington State Department of Health, there were 12,200 hospitalizations and nearly 500 deaths among older adults in 2005 due to falls in Washington alone. Nationally, in 2000, total medical costs for treating falls were estimated to be more than $19 billion. In addition to serious injury, falls can result in loss of functional independence, disability and early admission to a nursing home.
“Despite their serious impacts, falls are not a normal part of the aging process,” said Dr. Elizabeth Phelan, director of the Fall Prevention Clinic at Harborview Medical Center and a UW assistant professor of medicine. “While some risk factors are more common as we get older, we can reduce the likelihood of falls with appropriate medical care and safety precautions.”
At the UW Medicine fairs, a variety of activities will be offered to educate older people and the community about fall prevention strategies, including home safety, exercise, medication management and vision checks. Physical therapists and physical therapy students will provide balance and gait (walking) testing, evaluate people for their risk of falling and provide tips on how to prevent falls.
Fairs will be held at the following locations and times on September 20 (except for the Mount Vernon fair, which will take place on September 21):
- Harborview Medical Center, noon to 4 p.m., 325 Ninth Ave., Seattle, 98104. Go to the Patient and Family Resource Center, Ground Floor, near the Gift Shop.
- UW Medical Center, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., 1959 N.E. Pacific Place, Seattle, 98195. Go to the third floor lobby.
- UW Medical Center—Roosevelt Clinic, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., 4225 Roosevelt Way N.E., Seattle, 98105.
- Ballard Northwest Senior Activity Center, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., 5429 32nd Ave. N.W., Seattle, 98107.
- Central Area Senior Center, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., 500 30th Ave. S., Seattle, 98144.
- ElderHealth Northwest, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., 800 Jefferson St., Seattle, 98104.
- Greater Maple Valley Community Center, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., 22010 S.E. 248th St., Maple Valley, 98038.
- South County Senior Center, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., 220 Railroad Ave., Edmonds, 98020.
- Wallingford Senior Center, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., 4649 Sunnyside Ave. N., Suite 140, Seattle, 98103.
- Mount Vernon Senior Center, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., 1401 Cleveland Ave., Mount Vernon, 98273 (Friday, Sept. 21).
Fall Prevention Strategies
A comprehensive medical evaluation is recommended for older people considered to be at high risk for serious health issues related to falls. This would include people who have required medical attention for a previous fall, people who have fallen more than once in the past year and people who have gait and/or balance problems.
Exercise is the best way to improve balance, mobility and reaction time. Another goal is to increase lower body strength and improve flexibility and endurance. Possible choices include walking outside or indoors at malls, cycling, swimming, water aerobics and Tai Chi.
Vision problems contributing to falls include cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. To detect them, older adults should have regular eye exams. They should be especially careful on stairs when adjusting to new glasses or multifocal lenses.
A number of medications have the potential to contribute to falls by causing dizziness and drowsiness. Doctors and pharmacists may be able to help reduce these side effects by prescribing lower doses or suggesting alternatives to the medications.
Tips for home safety include removing tripping hazards, using non-slip mats in the bathtub and on shower floors, installing grab bars in bathrooms and handrails on both sides of stairways, and improving lighting throughout the home. Older people should wear supportive shoes with a low heel and wide toe box. They should not walk barefoot or in socks at night.
For More Information
For questions about the UW Medicine Fall Prevention fairs, contact Anne Shumway-Cook, UW professor of physical therapy, at (206) 598-5395. To learn more about fall prevention, visit www.fallsfreewashington.org or contact the Fall Prevention Clinic at Harborview Medical Center, (206) 744-4191 or www.harborview.org.
About UW Medicine
UW Medicine is a regional and national health-care leader. Its system of care includes Harborview Medical Center, UW Medical Center, UW Medicine Neighborhood Clinics, UW Physicians and the UW School of Medicine.