No one wants to take a fall, for many good reasons. According to the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH), falls are the second-leading cause of injury deaths for all age groups in the state, and they’re the leading cause of injury hospitalizations and emergency visits.
To help avoid the painful, costly and even deadly consequences of falling, community members are invited to attend Des Moines University’s “Don’t Fall Fiesta” on Friday, Sept. 20, from noon to 2 p.m. in the Academic Center’s Lecture Hall 3. Held in conjunction with national Falls Prevention Awareness Day, the event is free and open to the public, but interested individuals are asked to register by calling the DMU Physical Therapy Clinic at 515-271-1717.
“Our Don’t Fall Fiesta will be a fun, active event,” says Kathy Mercuris, P.T., D.H.S., associate professor of physical therapy at DMU and a member of the Iowa Falls Prevention Coalition. She also is faculty advisor to the University’s Physical Therapy Club, which is sponsoring the event with the Geriatrics Club and Emergency Medicine Club.
Don’t Fall Fiesta will include guest speaker Chris Petrick, NREMT, a paramedic with the West Des Moines Emergency Medical Services. Paramedics and other first responders receive a lot of calls for help regarding falls incurring at home. The event also will feature balance screens, a tai chi demonstration, safety information and other educational activities.
Beyond the physical pain falls can cause, they can be “incredibly expense” due to the medical treatment a person may need.
“Fall injuries tap into our medical system,” says Dr. Mercuris. “Some individuals who’ve fallen aren’t even able to return home.”
Victims of falls also are at risk of becoming so fearful of falling, they avoid physical activity. “They may stop socializing, stay at home and become more sedentary,” she says. “That puts people at an even greater risk of falling.”
On the bright side, people can avoid falls by being proactive. IDPH reports that since 2014, nearly 3,400 older adults and adults with disabilities have participated in falls prevention programs, such as Don’t Fall Fiesta, saving more than $1.6 million in health care costs. The DMU Physical Therapy Clinic offers several exercise classes to enhance physical health, improve balance and help participants avoid falls, including Active Adult Exercise, Core Strength with Pilates, Tai Chi for Arthritis and Fall Prevention, and Yoga for Healthy Aging.
Because multiple factors are involved in most falls, consultations with health care providers can help people avoid falls.
“A physical therapist can perform a thorough assessment of one’s risks for falls, such as sensory loss or weakness in the lower limbs, vestibular issues, gait and balance. They will provide referral suggestions to other health care providers – for example, medication reviews and vision checks,” Dr. Mercuris says. “Any one of those issues or a combination of them can put you at risk of falls, so this assessment is a really good start for addressing problems and avoiding falls.”