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Falls Are Not A Natural Part Of Aging

Erin Selby | 9/7/2018, 6 a.m.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that every 11 seconds, an older adult goes to an Emergency ...

This article is part of the #STCPreventionMatters campaign from the University of Maryland Medical Center. For more information about the campaign and the Center for Injury Prevention and Policy, visit: www.umm.edu/PreventionMatters

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that every 11 seconds, an older adult goes to an Emergency Department after having a fall. The CDC’s research has also found that on average, an older adult dies every 19 minutes after having difficulty recovering after a fall.

Falls often rob older adults of the ability to lead full and independent lives, but it does not have to be this way. Falls are not a normal part of aging. Healthcare professionals from across the state are working to prevent falls in the community. This month, the University of Maryland Medical Center’s Community Health Outreach Program and the Center for Injury Prevention and Policy are teaming up to offer Stepping On classes in Baltimore City. Stepping On is series of seven weekly workshops designed to teach older adults how to reduce falls by building confidence and improving strength and balance.

Research shows that these workshops successfully reduce falls by 31 percent. All adults over the age of 60 are at an increased risk of falling and should participate in workshops like these.

The Community Health Department at University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center (UM SJMC) has successfully held nine series of the Stepping On workshops since the summer of 2015.

Through the program, older adults gain important information about fall risks, including fall dangers in the home, problems with medication, unsafe footwear, and poor vision. In addition to the trained leaders, guest experts from healthcare and community organizations outside the hospital— including physical therapists, pharmacists, representatives from a private shoe company, and the Maryland Society for Sight— deliver important information to help older adults and their caregivers reduce the risk of falls. This allows students to pay closer attention to their individual risks and encourages them to make better decisions to reduce their chances of falling. One student reported that Stepping On “definitely makes you more aware of things not to do.”

Two important parts of the program are the strength and balance exercises. The leaders guide participants through the exercises as a group. One recent student reported that he “feels much stronger since doing the exercises.”

Participants learn the benefits of these exercises and are encouraged to continue these regularly, even after the program ends.

The reviews are overwhelmingly positive for UM SJMC’s Stepping On classes:

-Eighty-nine people have successfully finished the Stepping On program through the UM SJMC.

-Three out of every four people shared that they felt more sure in their ability to get up from a fall after taking the Stepping On classes.

-Four out of five attendees said they had greater confidence in their balance after participating in the program.

-More than half of the students stated they made changes in their home to reduce their risk of falling.

Overall, the Stepping On program has been very popular in Baltimore County. Many of the people who attended the classes at the St. Joseph’s Medical Center reported that the information was valuable and they “became very informed.”

The University of Maryland Medical Center is eager to bring this important and useful resource to Baltimore City.

Erin Selby is a Community Health Specialist at the University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center located in Towson, Maryland.