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Health systems, ADRC address rising number of severe fall injuries in older adults

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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) – Health systems say older adults in central Wisconsin are experiencing more severe injuries when they fall.

The CDC says 1 in 5 falls causes a broken bone or head injury. Now imagine that person isn’t found for days. While local data on the matter lags by a number of years, that’s what health systems in our area say they’re seeing in the emergency room.

Many of us are trying to keep older loved ones and neighbors safe from COVID-19 by limiting visits. But that means less socializing and exercise for seniors, which is a recipe for worse injuries.

Aspirus and Marshfield Clinic are partnering with the Aging and Disability Resource Center to host a virtual class to educate adults and caregivers about fall prevention.

With sedentary behavior comes a loss of muscle mass, and that muscle mass puts us at greater risk for those falls,” explained Jennifer Clark, community health educator at the ADRC.

Clark says social isolation can directly lead to older adults ending up at the hospital with worse fall injuries since people are going longer without being found.

“Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen not necessarily an increase in the number of falls, but an increase in the number of falls that are occurring at home, and an increase in the severity of the injuries from falls,” said Amanda Tabin, Safe Kids and injury prevention coordinator at Aspirus.

Tabin says bad lighting and cluttered stairs impact falling, but so do health and medication.

“Whether it be changes made in the home, doing balance and strengthening exercises, and communicating with healthcare providers about mediations and getting yearly vision checks, so all of those things can help you prevent falls,” Tabin said.

The Better Your Balance event is educating caregivers and older adults about some easy fixes that can help adults live safely without falling.

“We have a physical therapist that speaks and demonstrates some of the exercises that some of the older adults can do to help build strength particularly in the lower body,” Tabin explained.

And Clark says whether or not you attend the class, checking for signs a neighbor or family member has fallen could save someone from a severe injury.

“If they’re not opening their shades every morning or they haven’t come out to get the mail at all, those are kind of red flags,” she said.

There’s a Better Your Balance session Thursday, March 25 for older adults. Click here for more information. You can also call 888-486-9545.

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