Each year, millions of older adults fall. In fact, more than one out of four older people falls each year, but less than half tell their doctor. The risk of falls increases dramatically as people get older and each fall has the potential to cause serious damage.
With that in mind, “Only Leaves Should Fall” Virtual Falls Prevention Event will take place Thursday, Sept. 30, 10:30 a.m.-noon, to let people know the many ways that they can help to prevent a dangerous fall. This free event will include medical professionals and people that have had personal experiences with falling and loss of independence and how they got it back.
“Our goal as the Dane County Falls Prevention Task Force is that people, as they age, can live their lives independently and in a way that they want to live their lives for as long as possible,” says Ashley Hillman, Falls Prevention Program Manager for Safe Communities of Madison and Dane County, an award-winning nonprofit coalition of over 350 organizations working together to save lives, prevent injury and make the community safer.
This event is normally an in-person event that has been held for over 10 years every September, which is Falls Prevention Month.
“This year, because of COVID, we’re changing things a little bit,” Hillman says.
“Usually, at the event, we would partner with the OTA program – the Occupational Therapy Assistance program – at Madison College and pharmacy, nursing and physical therapy at UW-Madison and we have students on-site at the event who take participants through a series of screenings so that by the time a participant leaves the event, they know what their risk of falling might be and what the cause could be,” Hillman adds.
There are many factors in falls like poor vision, medication management, strength and balance, and home safety. And there are things that people can do to reduce their risk for falls that include home modifications, medications reviews, lifestyle changes, and exercises/classes.
“We will provide the participants with resources on what they can do to prevent a fall,” Hillman says.
This year’s virtual event will feature a diverse array of health professionals including Dr. Zorba Paster, a family physician, WPR radio host, newspaper columnist, and TV contributor, who will give the introduction.
Panelists will include Dr. Corinda Rainey-Moore, community engagement manager at UnityPoint Health-Meriter; Dr. Roanne Osborne, Chief Medical Officer at MercyCare Health Plans; Charlie Daniel, African American Opioid Coalition Founder and Diversity and Inclusion Manager at Safe Communities; Dr. Judy Dewane, associate professor of physical therapy program at UW-Madison, and Aaron Perry, founder and president of Rebalanced-Life Wellness Association.
“This panel gives us so many different perspectives and that’s what we’re really aiming for this year. We are trying to come at this from different angles to really provide a cohesive picture of what are some effective fall prevention strategies and how a fall can impact an individual, a family and a community,” Hillman says. “That’s the goal of the event.
“Ms. Charlie [Daniel] has fallen herself and she has suffered from that fall for years now,” Hillman continues. “So she will be able to provide that perspective on how a fall can shape your trajectory.
“We have folks in the medical field who will talk about some of the medical aspects of falls and then Mr. Aaron Perry is someone who is very community-based in his work to increase access to fall prevention programming, particularly among African-American men,” she adds.
Since participants will not be able to work in-person with the students this year, which Hillman says is always a highlight for the students, they are hoping to do some virtual home safety assessments with participants.
“Possibly even some strength and balance exercises. We’d like to work with our partners in post-secondary education, if possible,” Hillman says.
The event is sponsored by the Dane County Falls Prevention Task Force and the Dane County Area Agency on Aging.
“People have already started registering and we’ve gotten lots of people who are just in the aging networks, working with older adults, working with caregivers … they are registering for the event,” Hillman says. “Obviously, we are looking for older adults to attend this event. But, also, anyone who is interested in learning about the severity of falls. I think for a lot of people, it’s not a topic we talk about and it’s actually the leading cause of injury deaths among older adults in Wisconsin.
“I think people really don’t want to talk about it or they just don’t talk about it. Wisconsin consistently ranks number 1 or 2 in the country for fall-related deaths and has more than twice the national average. So we have an issue here and I think a lot of people just don’t want to talk about it,” she adds. “We’re hoping to break down the barriers or the stigma that is attached to falling because I think that some people assume that when they get older that it’s just going to happen … but it’s absolutely not true. Falls can be prevented.”
“Only Leaves Should Fall” Free Virtual Falls Prevention Event will take place Thursday, Sept. 30, 10:30 a.m.-noon. For more information or to register, contact Ashley Hillman at firstname.lastname@example.org or (608) 235-1957.