Smithfield Herald

Hospital puts focus on falls

Recently, patients and visitors at Johnston Health got a dose of education on how to prevent falls.

Colorful placemats went underneath every patient’s meal, and educational materials were on display near the main entrances at the hospital in Smithfield and Johnston Health Medical Mall. Also, employees were challenged to identify fall hazards staged in a mock hospital room.

Caroline Hester, an administrative director who oversees home care and hospice, took part in the hospital’s push to raise the community’s awareness about falls and how to prevent them.

“Every year in our country, one-third of Americans aged 65 and older will fall,” Hester said. “It’s so important that we get rid of tripping hazards at home, that we be mindful of medications and that we keep our vision sharp. Also, aging adults need to exercise to keep their legs strong, which makes falls less likely.”

The National Council on Aging says falls are the leading cause of injury death for older Americans. Statistics gathered by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are revealing: Every 14 seconds, an older adult is treated in the emergency room for a fall; every 29 minutes, an older adult dies following a fall.

In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says falls result in 2.4 million injuries treated in emergency departments annually, including more than 772,000 hospitalizations and more than 21,700 deaths. And in 2012, the total cost of fall injuries was more than $36 billion.

Hester says the average health care cost of a fall injury is about $20,000. “Falls are largely preventable,” she added. “Even the fear of falling can cause adults to limit their physical and social activities, which in turn can lead to depression and feelings of helplessness.”

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