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Falls Prevention Awareness Month reminds older adults that falling is preventable


Officials with the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) say the agency is committed to empowering older adults in Missouri to reduce their risk of falls, one of the most significant causes of severe injuries and death among people older than 65.

This September, DHSS is partnering with the National Council on Aging to bring attention to Falls Prevention Awareness Month.

"DHSS has a strong history of helping older residents in Missouri," said Mindy Ulstad, chief of the Bureau of Senior Programs within DHSS. "We're proud to be part of this national education and outreach initiative helping millions of older adults age well and stay falls free. We encourage people to the events this month and visit our website, health.mo.gov/seniors/showmefallsfreemissouri/awareness-month.php, to learn more about falls prevention."

Most recent data shows 316,215 Missourians older than 65 reported falling in the past 12 months, the agency points out. DHSS encourages older adults to focus on these tips to reduce falls:

- Check your home for fall risks: Use the falls prevention checklist online at www.cdc.gov/steadi/pdf/check_for_safety_brochure-a.pdf to find ways to make your home safer as you age.

- Stay physically active and focus on overall wellness: Simple falls prevention exercises to do at home can be found at www.activeandhealthy.nsw.gov.au/assets/pdf/Falls_Prevention_Home_Exercises.pdf, or find a fitness class at your local area agency on aging, health.mo.gov/seniors/aaa. Staying hydrated, eating a healthy diet and getting quality sleep can all improve overall wellness and decrease the risk of falling.

- Get an annual fall screening: The CDC recommends that all adults older than 65 get an annual fall screening. If you have additional symptoms, such as dizziness or light-headedness, you may need a fall screening earlier.

- Get regular medical checks: Changes in vision, hearing and foot stability may cause you to fall. Ask your medical provider how often you should have your vision and hearing checked. If you receive new eyewear or hearing aids, take time to get used to them. If you are noticing changes in your foot strength or the way you walk, talk to your medical provider about these changes.

- Tell your medical provider if you have fallen: A fall can alert your medical provider to a possible problem and help them provide you with ways to prevent future accidents. These steps may include things like changing medication, or seeing a physical or occupational therapist.

"By creating awareness about fall risks and providing education around fall prevention, we can take proactive steps to protect the health, safety and independence of our older adults," said Kelsey Weitzel, the Show Me Falls Free Missouri coordinator.

As part of a national outreach campaign, DHSS is sharing information about events in Missouri to raise awareness among older adults. Events raising awareness about falls prevention and tools to prevent falls can be found at Health.Mo.Gov/seniors/showmefallsfreemissouri/awareness-month.php.