Steady as they go

LIHUE — Rachelle Bachran, a public health educator with the state Department of Health, has been concerned about falls prevention for a long time.

Falls among Hawaii seniors are reaching troubling numbers and are creating an enormous burden on individuals, families, and the health care system. An average of 86 seniors die, 1,912 are hospitalized, and 8,010 are treated in emergency departments because of falls, according to the Department of Health.

The National Council on Aging reports that each year, one in three United States citizens aged 65 and older takes a spill. The organization states that falling is the leading cause of injury-related death among people 65 and older.

“Almost every hour, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, a senior is transported by ambulance to an emergency room in our state because of a fall injury,” said Dr. Virginia Pressler, DOH director. “Yet, many falls and fall-related injuries can be prevented with existing knowledge and technology. Fall prevention is a major concern for our state and this collaborative effort is helping to ensure the safety and well-being of our kupuna, the fastest growing segment of our population.”

Bachra has hosted a workshop for seniors on moving with balance. With the help of Pualei Kaohelaulii, a bilingual outreach worker, the state is working with the county to help seniors with falls prevention, Bachran said.

Starting 8 a.m. Tuesday, it is offering the “Moving With Balance” workshop at the Waimea Senior Center. The following week, on Tuesday, it will be starting the workshop at the Kekaha Senior Center.

Bachran said the classes are about an hour and will continue for eight weeks.

The Department of Health has joined with Foodland Supermarkets, Times Supermarkets, the KTA Superstores, Kaiser Permanente, Walgrens Pharmacies, and the Hawaii Community Pharmacy Association to sponsor a statewide senior fall prevention awareness campaign from June 8 to Aug. 30.

A newly produced educational video about home safety, outreach activities which include free medication reviews and balance testing, and workshops offering fall prevention tips for older adults, will be available.

Additionally, more than 51 stores statewide will distribute 51,000 bag stuffers between June 15 and Aug. 30 which contain fall prevention tips for seniors.

A Falls Prevention Alliance meeting is set for June 16 from 10 a.m. to noon at the Piikoi Building conference room.

Bachran said people should take advantage of the Senior Fall Prevention Campaign to have their balance checked as well as having their medications reviewed.

“By conducting in-store reviews of senior medications as well as balance tests, our pharmacists from the Hawaii Community Pharmacy Association and the other organizations will be contributing an additional service to support senior health and well-being,” said Catalina Cross, Times Supermarkets director of pharmacy.

Another tip is home modifications where loose rugs are removed, and clutter reduced, Bachran said. Other tips include having the doctor review medications annually, having one’s eyes checked annually, and exercising to increase balance and flexibility.

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