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PO Box 360
Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

For Release:
September 19, 2011

Mary E. O'Dowd, M.P.H.
Commissioner

For Further Information Contact:
Office of Communications
(609) 984-7160


 
Standing Tall Against Falls, Fall Prevention Awareness Week, September 19-25, 2011


 

Trenton – In recognition of September 19-25, 2011 as Fall Prevention Awareness Week, the Department of Health and Senior Services encourages seniors, their families, health professionals and the public to take proactive steps to avoid falls and their devastating affects.

 

In the United States, it is estimated that one third of all seniors over the age of 65 and one half of seniors over the age of 80 will fall this year, resulting in medical costs exceeding $27 billion.  In 2010, falls were the leading cause of death from injury in New Jersey among those 65 and older.  More than 18,000 older Americans die every year due to a fall.

 

        Falling down is too often a painful part of getting older,” said Health and Senior Services Commissioner Mary E. O’Dowd.  “The good news – and the message we will be sharing throughout the week – is that most falls are preventable.”

 

Studies show that a combination of interventions can significantly reduce falls in the older adult population.  Experts recommend a physical activity regimen with balance, strength training, and flexibility components; consulting with a health professional about getting a fall risk assessment; having medications reviewed periodically, getting eyes checked annually; and making sure the home environment is safe and supportive.

 

Governor Chris Christie has proclaimed September 19-25 Fall Prevention Awareness Week in New Jersey. Commissioner O’Dowd said her Department’s observations of Fall Prevention Awareness Week include the launching of a website at www.aging.nj.gov/fallsfree complete with fact sheets, tip sheets, a home safety assessment tool and other useful information and resources for seniors, their families, health care professionals and the public.  The site also includes a list of locally-sponsored health fairs and screenings, fitness walks and lectures to raise awareness about the seriousness of falls and ways to reduce the risk of falling.

 

        The Department also recently distributed more than 20,000 fall prevention themed placemats to housing programs, home delivered meal and congregate meal programs throughout the state.  The placemats have fun and educational activities for program participants.

 

Extending the fall prevention message throughout the year, Commissioner O’Dowd announced the Department added a pre-packaged, easy-to-use health education curriculum aimed at reducing falls to its popular HealthEASE series.  Developed by the New Jersey Institute for Successful Aging at UMDNJ, the new one-hour session titled Standing Tall Against Falls includes a PowerPoint presentation, handouts, and a pre- and post-test.  The Institute will preview the session in Camden on September 27.  The Department will train facilitators in October who will begin delivering the new module to seniors around the state starting in November.

 

The Department also administers programs to help seniors improve balance and maintain bone health to reduce falls and avoid or minimize injury when falls do occur.

 

A Matter of Balance is a nationally recognized, evidence-based and peer-led falls prevention program that is new to New Jersey.  Currently available in eight counties, the program is designed to increase activity levels of older adults while reducing the fear of falling.

 

Project Healthy Bones is a 24-week, peer-led low impact exercise and education program that helps participants decrease bone loss, increase bone density and improve strength, balance and flexibility – all important in preventing falls. The program is available in all New Jersey counties, and more than 3,000 older adults have participated in Project Healthy Bones annually since its inception in 1997.

 

New Jersey is part of the Falls Free™ Coalition, which includes 46 states and 70 national organizations, professional associations and federal agencies across the country dedicated to reducing fall-related injury and death among older adults.  Fall Prevention Awareness Week planning at the state level was led by the New Jersey Interagency Council of Osteoporosis.

 

The Council, established in 1997, is a multidisciplinary coalition comprised of members of the public; state government; and healthcare, academic and corporate communities.  It is dedicated to the development, implementation and evaluation of a comprehensive osteoporosis prevention and education program for the benefit of New Jersey residents.

 

        Fall prevention tips shared on the Department’s website and in the Standing Tall Against Falls curriculum include:

 

·        Exercise regularly. It increases strength, flexibility and balance

·        Have your eyes checked by a doctor at least once a year

·        Wear the right footwear. The safest shoes fit your feet, have low heels, non-slip soles, and lace up or are secured with fabric fasteners

·        Make your home safer by removing fall hazards and improving lighting

o       Remove clutter like loose papers, boxes, wires, and phone cords from walk paths and stairways

o       Make lights brighter, especially in stairways. Consider a nightlight in the bath, bedroom, and hallways

o       Install bath grips or grab bars in your tub or shower

o       Use non-skid liners under rugs, or better still, remove all throw rugs

·        Ask the doctor or pharmacist to review all prescription and over-the-counter medications.

o       Many medicines can cause side effects such as weakness or dizziness

o       Taking four or more medications increases your risk for a fall

 

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