Fall prevention programs for older adults scheduled in Sylva, Cashiers

Students and faculty from Western Carolina University’s Department of Physical Therapy are teaming up with the Jackson County Senior Center and Department of Public Health to offer free programs for older adults in September in recognition of the fifth annual National Falls Prevention Awareness Day.

With the theme “Standing Together to Prevent Falls,” the focus of the effort is on uniting health professionals, older adults, caregivers and family members in raising awareness and preventing falls in the older adult population, said Lori Schrodt, WCU associate professor of physical therapy.

The first program will be held from 11 to 11:30 a.m. Monday, Sept. 17, in the Heritage Room at the Jackson County Department on Aging office in Sylva. Schrodt and Sue Evans, a registered nurse with the Department of Public Health, will provide general tips and brief exercises older adults can use to reduce their risk of falling. The program is being offered in conjunction with the Department on Aging and the nutrition site. Individuals interested in attending the lunch scheduled for that day are asked to call 828-631-8045 by Friday, Sept. 14, to sign up. For more general information, call 828-631-8033.

Schrodt, Laura Rodi of the Jackson County Senior Center and several WCU physical therapy graduate students will lead a free hour-long balance improvement exercise class from 2 to 3 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 21. The class will be offered in Room 134 of the Senior Center. Call 828-586-4944 for more information or to sign up.

A fall risk screening clinic will be offered at the Cashiers-Glenville Fire Department station from 8:45 a.m. until 2 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 27. Individuals who attend will undergo a series of simple tests to assess their fall risk, including medication reviews by a pharmacist, and receive individualized recommendations based on the results, as well as general fall prevention information. Those interested in attending should contact Sue Evans at 828-587-8279 to schedule an appointment.

Every 15 seconds, an older adult is seen in an emergency room for a fall-related injury, and every 29 minutes an older adult dies following a fall, Schrodt said. Falls are the leading cause of both fatal and non-fatal injuries for those 65 and older, and the chances of falling and being seriously injured in a fall increase with age.

Studies show that a combination of interventions can significantly reduce falls in the older adult population, Schrodt said. Experts recommend a physical activity regimen with balance, strength training and flexibility components; consultation with a health professional about receiving a fall risk assessment; periodic reviews of medications; annual eye examinations; and checks to make sure the home environment is safe and supportive.