Falls may not seem an obvious topic for a casual gathering of active, older adults, but mention the subject and it quickly takes center stage. For one person, it’s the story of an older relative whose fear of falling keeps them homebound. For another, it’s their worry about a spouse who won’t admit that falling has become a problem. No matter the variety of personal experiences, however, everyone will agree: older adults don’t want to become a fall-injury statistic, nor break a hip.
Their concern is well-placed. Across the country, an older adult is treated in an emergency department for a fall every 11 seconds. The statistics show that one in four older adults, age 60 or older, will fall each year. That number increases to one in two older adults age 80 or over. Wisconsin has the highest death rate due to falls among older adults in the country. In Northeast Wisconsin, falls are the number one trauma injury. The average rate per day of falls in Brown County is 32 per day reported by our Green Bay hospitals, emergency rooms, and EMS departments. When you see an ambulance or fire engine going down the street, chances are it’s often the result of a 911 call because of a fall. Green Bay Metro Fire Department Lieutenant, Shauna Walesh, states, “Our department responded to 16,239 calls of service in 2021. Over 1,500 of those calls were a result of someone falling.”
The Brown County Falls Prevention Partnership is working to reduce these local fall statistics. This local partnership, Chaired by Shauna, brings together professionals from a variety of organizations who work together to implement strategies in Brown County to create awareness of the falls statistics, provide educational programs to learn how to prevent a fall, and connect community organizations together who can improve processes to get older adults connected to resources. Everyone wants to avoid an injury and remain as independent as possible living at home, and that fuels the passion of the Partnership.
According to the regional trauma centers, ground level falls are the leading cause of injury for patients age 65 years and older. Reducing fall risk is the key to preventing these life changing events.
Beyond the local statistics, there is another resource that older adults need to know about. “Falls are preventable and they are not a normal part of aging,” says Dave Nelson, Executive Director of the Wisconsin Institute for Healthy Aging (WIHA). “Studies in Wisconsin have shown Stepping On reduced participants’ likelihood of falling by 31% after taking the workshop,” says Nelson. “It’s very good news because it shows older adults there are effective ways to protect themselves from falls.” Classes like Stepping On make people aware of hazards they take for granted at home or out in the community. Participants hear from community safety experts, pharmacists, vision specialists, and learn exercises to improve balance and build strength from a physical therapist. Stepping On puts the individual in control of fall prevention with a variety of tools. This workshop is provided in the Greater Green Bay area.
Talking about falls and sharing experiences in fall prevention helps all of us and can go a long way to help make our environment and our day-to-day activities safer. For more information and to get connected to community resources to help prevent a fall, call ADRC at (920) 448-4300 or visit the Fall Prevention Partnership online at www.adrcofbrowncounty.org/fall-prevention.