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Prevent Falls and Maximize Quality of Life for Older South Dakotans

BROOKINGS, S.D. - Falls Prevention Awareness Week, held September 21-25, 2020, is an opportunity to raise awareness about how to prevent falls among older adults. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one of four older Americans fall each year, and a single fall doubles the chance of falling again.

“Falls are devastating to individuals and families. When an individual experiences a fall, it has a domino effect on their quality of life,” explained Leacey Brown, SDSU Extension Gerontology Field Specialist and chair of the South Dakota Falls Prevention Coalition. “Beyond the challenges from recovering from the falls, older adults who have experienced a fall often develop a fear of falling again.”

In South Dakota, 37% of people are afraid of falling, a legitimate concern considering the state is ranked fifth in the nation for most fatalities from falls. For Americans 65 and older, the CDC reported falls as the leading cause for fatal accidents and three million people are treated in U.S. emergency departments for fall injuries each year. 

Several organizations working on fall prevention recognized the need to establish a South Dakota Fall Prevention Coalition to reduce falls and fall-related injuries in older South Dakotans to maximize their independence and quality of life. 

“The South Dakota Fall Prevention Coalition’s first effort is to increase awareness among those at risk for falling and those who can identify and support someone with a higher risk for falling,” said Brown. 

The coalition developed a free SD Fall Prevention Toolkit as a resource for healthcare professionals to identify and support individuals at risk for a fall. The collection of resources supports the coalition’s focus to reduce falls and fall-related injuries in older South Dakotans to maximize independence and quality of life. The toolkit can be found by clicking on the ‘South Dakota Fall Prevention Coalition” logo on the South Dakota Department of Health web page

“People tend to believe falls are a normal part of getting older. Many have a misplaced belief that reducing their level of physical activity will prevent a fall. What we know is lack of physical activity increases the risk of a fall.” 

— Leacey Brown, SDSU Extension Gerontology Field Specialist

South Dakotans have access to several SDSU Extension programs proven to reduce falls by building strength, balance and flexibility. Walk with Ease focuses on increased physical activity and confidence to reduce fall risk, while Fit & Strong! is intended for those managing the symptoms of arthritis to reduce joint pain through exercise. Typically offered in-person, these programs now have self-guided and virtual platforms to increase availability. 

With the help of healthcare providers, Brown considers fall prevention as the goal, “Individuals follow the recommendation of their healthcare provider. By encouraging screening for fall risk and providing referrals to evidence-based fall prevention programs, we can intervene before the fall occurs.” 

For more information, contact Leacey Brown, SDSU Extension Gerontology Field Specialist. Those interested in joining or learning more about the South Dakota Falls Prevention Coalition are encouraged to reach out by email.