82 Hawai’i Deaths Annually Attributed to Senior Falls

September 23, 2011, 9:12 AM HST · Updated September 23, 3:16 PM
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By Wendy Osher

Hawaii map of fatal falls from 1996-2002, courtesy state Department of Health.

The state observes fall prevention awareness day today.  The campaign is designed to build awareness to protect older adults from life-altering falls and injuries.

According to state officials, falls have been identified as the number one cause of kupuna injury.

“On average, every five hours in Hawai’i a senior suffers a fall injury so serious he or she must be hospitalized,” said Director of Health, Loretta J. Fuddy.  “Fall prevention is a major concern for the safety and well-being of our kupuna,” said Fuddy.

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The state attributes 82 deaths each year to senior falls. Thousands more are hospitalized or treated in emergency rooms, resulting in nearly $65 million in hospital and physician charges each year.

Hawai’i joins 42 other states in observing Fall Prevention Awareness Day, which was created by a Congressional Proclamation in 2009.

Health officials falls are preventable, and offered several interventions to help safeguard seniors against falls including the following:

  • Have your medications reviewed by your pharmacist or physician. Prescription drugs, especially in combination with over-the-counter remedies and herbal supplements can cause dizziness and other reactions that can cause a fall.
  • Have your vision checked at least once per year so that your glasses match your activity. Reading glasses or bifocals may cause difficulties on stairs or when walking.
  • Physical activity is a must to maintain muscle tone which helps preserve your balance. Take a Tai Chi class, take a walk with friends, swim, garden, visit the mall with family, and stay active to maintain your strength.
  • Make your home safer by adding brighter bulbs, safety bars in your bath, safety rails on a stairway and remove clutter like magazines, newspapers and other items from paths in and around your home.
  • Stay out of trees and off the roof. Queen’s Hospital reports that during mango, avocado and lychee season fall injuries increase significantly. Ask a friend to help and don’t climb that ladder alone.

“Fall prevention awareness must become part of the lifestyle of every senior or their care giver because recently over the last few years fall injuries have become the number one cause for injury treatment in our emergency rooms statewide,” said Dr. Linda Rosen, Chief of the Emergency Medical Services and Injury Prevention Systems Branch.

The Fall Prevention Day was organized by the state’s Injury Prevention program, which is administered by the Department of Health.  The program provides statewide leadership in preventing death and disability associated with injuries in Hawai‘i.

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