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Spring 2015

Ask the Experts: Falls Prevention Program

Q&A about preventing falls with Shea Gregg, MD, chief, Section of Trauma, Burns, Surgical Critical Care, Bridgeport Hospital

Ask the Experts: Falls Prevention Program

Q. Why does Bridgeport Hospital offer a program to prevent falls, and who does it help?

A. Data shows one in three people over age 65 will experience a fall. With people living longer, the top cause of injury-related death in those over 65 is falls. Bridgeport Hospital’s certified level 2 trauma center partners with its Ahlbin Rehabilitation Centers, the Emergency Department and Geriatrics, as well as community practitioners to provide a falls prevention program that reduces the risk of falling.

Q. What does the falls prevention program include?

A. One element is SLIP (Senior Lifestyle and Injury Prevention), an educational program we present regularly at various forums in the greater Bridgeport area. Additional resources include educational aids such as brochures and worksheets. Our team also provides home safety evaluations and can determine whether a patient will benefit more from inpatient or outpatient rehabilitation services. The Ahlbin Centers outpatient exercise and strengthening programs are a resource that can reduce the risk of falls. In the hospital, we continually review ways to streamline our care to treat acute falls and avoid future falls.

Q. Why are falls such a serious concern for seniors?

A. As people age, they become more prone to health issues such as osteoporosis (brittle bones) and anemia (feeling tired and weak from reduced red blood cells). Other medical conditions may require medications that thin the blood, control blood pressure and blood sugar. Despite our best efforts to manage these conditions safely, factors such as dehydration, acute viral illnesses and decreased food intake can cause fatigue, weakness and unstable walking. These situations can lead to falls and result in significant injury, such as severe head trauma and hip fractures, which are linked to decreased life expectancy. So, it is important to educate seniors and their loved ones about reducing the risk of falls.

Q. When should individuals consider a falls prevention program?

A. If someone feels unsteady, dizzy or is growing weaker, they should consider participating in a fall reduction program once the cause of their health issue is diagnosed and treated. Simple interview tools and tests can help a primary care physician or other medical professional evaluate a person’s risk of falls and reduce that risk. Family members also play an important role by recognizing that someone needs medical help and encouraging them to get it.

Q. What steps can an individual take at home to help prevent falling?

A. Hazards include loose carpeting and mats; lack of safety bars in the tub or bathroom; loose stairs, broken railings and other items that need maintenance; poor lighting; and general clutter. A person at risk of falling should wear appropriate, well-fitting shoes; make eyeglasses easy to access; and use canes and other devices to help them safely move about. They should also visit their primary care physician regularly and ensure their medication is updated as needed.