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Best Practices for Preventing Falls

  • • Conduct a home survey which includes all potential tripping hazards, level of lighting in various rooms in the house, and potential places to place grab bars or other means of support.
  • • Modify the home to meet the needs of the individuals using the structure.
  • • Older adults need to make sure they are getting adequate calcium and vitamin D and be screened for osteoporosis.
  • • Safety rules should be published and enforced for all playground and other areas for children. Children’s playground equipment should meet safety standards and maintenance standards.
  • • Join an exercise program such as Tai Chi to increase leg strength and improve your balance.
  • • Use trained professionals to teach individuals how to compensate for balance problems and determine the need for an assistive device.
  • • Have the doctor or pharmacist review all medications, including herbal supplements, used by the person, and the interactions between them to determine potential side effects such as dizziness or drowsiness and advise how to prevent or control these conditions.
  • • Have a professional evaluate the footwear of the individual to determine if it is appropriate for the individual’s physical condition and activities.
  • • At least once a year, have the eye doctor evaluate vision, explain to the individual his/her limitations, and prescribe necessary glasses that will correct vision problems.
  • • Develop a Community Fall Prevention Program utilizing the resources of the agencies in the public health system to: assess community needs, potential funding, and physical and staff resources both volunteer and professional; determine the major risk factors which will be addressed; develop a significant education program which will reach the target population; utilize existing exercise programs; provide professional assistance to individuals on review of medications; provide vision screening at least once a year; provide hearing screening at least once a year; conduct home safety evaluations; and teach people how to properly use various assistive devices.

Poisonings

“A poison is any substance, including medications, that is harmful to your body when ingested, inhaled,

injected or absorbed through the skin.” EPA (see endnote 9)

This Centers for Disease Control and Prevention definition does not include an adverse reaction to a medication when the medication is taken appropriately. Virtually any substance taken in large enough quantities could be poisonous to an individual. An “unintentional poisoning” includes an overdose of drugs or chemicals used for recreational purposes. It also occurs when a chemical is taken accidentally by an individual, such as when a toddler swallows drain cleaner. An “intentional poisoning” occurs when the individual is attempting to do harm to him- or herself. This would include the categories of suicide and assault. (See endnote 9.)

Most poisonings are caused by drug overdoses, where deaths have been rising over the last 20 years. Among people aged 25-64, drug overdoses are now the leading cause of injury death, even more than automobile crashes, in the United States. It is estimated that the cost of prescription opiate abuse exceeds $55 billion. Men are almost twice as likely to die from injuries than women are, with the highest death rate among Native Americans/Alaska Natives. The highest death rate age bracket is 45-49 years of age. Children are most involved in injury from chemicals in the home including household cleaners, pesticides, and parents’ and grandparents’ medicine. In 2010, there were over 38,000 drug overdose deaths in the United States. (See endnote 10.)

Narcan (naloxone) is a pure opioid antagonist. It should be kept in all emergency drug kits where people respond to drug overdoses.

Since the above data seem to vary from year to year and from reporting agency to reporting agency, it is best to use it as general information instead of for study purposes. For any given community, a study should be made prior to the inauguration of a program of prevention and control. A subsequent study using the same parameters should then be conducted after a specific time, and a statistical comparison should be made to determine the effectiveness of the program. All outside factors should be accounted for in this study.

 
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