Standing up to senior falls: local program promotes independence and safety at home

By Alan Abe, Emergency Medical Services Division

Do you know someone over 65 who has fallen? Have you reached that age and are concerned about your risk? Senior falls are all too common, with results that are often serious and sometime even grave. Nearly 24,000 seniors died nationally in 2012 due to falls, nearly doubling in ten years. And over 2.4 million people – almost four times the population of Seattle – were hospitalized.EMS falls

What’s driving this toppling trend? More of us are living longer, and as a society, we’re getting older. And with the aging of the baby boomer generation, this trend will continue.  By 2030, the US Census Bureau estimates that there could be about 75 million people over 65 in the United States.

As we age, we tend to collect conditions that make us more vulnerable to falls: diabetes, heart disease, stroke, arthritis and Parkinson’s disease.

So, what can we do about it? We know that 60% of senior falls happen in the home, so if we improve safety and reduce risks there, we can make a big difference.

That’s where King County Emergency Medical Services/Medic One comes in. They have developed the One Step Ahead Fall Prevention Program to help at-risk seniors stay healthy, independent and safe in their homes.

How does the program work?

The program provides free home visits by a physical therapist or physical therapist assistant. They do a home safety walk through to address potential fall hazards, provide education about staying safe in the home, install fall safety devices, and give information about other community resources to help.

The program started as a pilot study over ten years ago, and is now a proven model. Among people who had a fall before enrolling into this program, 83% did not fall after being visited by staff.

How to sign up

To enroll in this free program, you must be 50 years and older, have fallen or be at high risk of falling as determine by a healthcare professional and live in King County.  Some other conditions apply.  For more information and to sign up, please contact  Alan Abe, King County Emergency Medical Services, at 206-263-8544 or alan.abe@kingcounty.gov.

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