Thursday, April 05, 2007

"Fear of Falling" & Focus on Falls

What is a "
fear of falling"? It is "a lasting concern about falling that can lead to an individual avoiding activities that he/she remains capable of performing." The fear can become self-limiting and destructive.

"Fear of Falling Among Seniors: Needs Assessment and Intervention Strategies" was a lecture, by Susan L. Murphy, which was presented at the World Federation of Occupational Therapists Conference, in Stockholm, Sweden, in June, 2002. In 2003, it was made available online -- in graphics & with speaker's notes -- by the University of Pittsburgh.

Why is harboring such a
fear, in itself, unhealthy for seniors? Go through the online lecture's twenty-one , well-done slides here -- right now -- and learn why. (It should take only three minutes; and then you will understand.)

Or, if you would rather read the
New York Times instead, then see: "For Elderly, Fear of Falling Is a Risk in Itself", by N. R. Kleinfield, published March 5, 2003.

* * * Studies indicate that 30 to 50 percent of elderly people fear falling. Mr. Howland said that research he engaged in found that fear of falling exceeded other commonplace anxieties like fear of being robbed in the street, fear of forgetting an appointment and fear of financial problems.

Stimulus for this primal fear is everywhere. The elderly not only fall themselves. In their world, they are witnesses to a montage of friends falling, neighbors falling, strangers falling -- last week, yesterday, 10 minutes ago. * * *
An awareness about falls, however, is a rational concern that can lead to better health for oneself or those in one's care.

"Healthy Steps" is the title of a new educational campaign announced by the
PA Department of Aging on April 4, 2007, that will promote such an awareness.

The Department's Press Release, entitled
"Rendell Administration Unveils Falls Prevention Program for Older Adults -- ‘Healthy Steps’ aims to keep older adults on their feet, out of hospitals", describes the initiative:
Department of Aging Secretary Nora Dowd Eisenhower today announced the launch of “Healthy Steps for Older Adults,” a falls prevention program that is designed to keep older Pennsylvanians on their feet and out of the hospital.

“Falls are the leading cause of injury-related hospital stays for older adults and are often precursors to a nursing home,” Eisenhower said. “Preventing falls is part of Governor Rendell’s strategy to provide older Pennsylvanians with the resources they need to live safely at home, rather than moving into a nursing home or similar institution.”

Healthy Steps for Older Adults will be offered in 34 counties. Intended for adults over age 50, the pair of two-hour workshops address participants’ medications, sensory deficits, home environmental safety, mobility exercise, health and behavioral status, foot care and nutrition hydration. * * *
Years ago, the American Academy of Family Physicians described the causes of falls by elderly persons, and offered practical preventative measures, in an article entitled "What Causes Falls in the Elderly? How Can I Prevent a Fall?", published the April 1, 2000 issue of its journal, the American Family Physician.

American Medical Association, in its journal article entitled "Falling and the Elderly" (PDF), published May 26, 1999 (reposted online by Penn State University), provided a one-page advisory on the subject.

The Department's Press Release announced that "demonstration" training sessions will be held soon in the Southeast, North Central, & Northwest regions of Pennsylvania. It also announced the availability of an award-winning training manual for the program.
The 64-page Healthy Steps Guidebook, developed by the Department of Aging and the University of California at Berkley, earned first place honors from the American Public Health Association’s public health education and health promotion sections.

The guidebook will be available to participants as well as instruction in three demonstration regions across the state.

Interested persons can call their local Area Agency on Aging or toll free at (866) 286-3636.
Excerpts from the Guidebook are available here.