Mike Ward, RN, trauma services coordinator supervisor for Banner Payson Medical Center, spoke about falls with Banner High Country Seniors members earlier this year.
Ward has served Rim Country residents for many years; he has been with Banner for 20 years, was a paramedic in Pine-Strawberry and has also worked with Native Air for five years.
He recommends that everyone obtain a brochure from the Centers for Disease Control on preventing falls from stopping accidents, deaths and injuries to the elderly (STEADI). Visit https://www.cdc.gov/steadi/index.html to find out more.
Ward said the house is the most dangerous place for falls. The two most dangerous places inside the house are the bathroom and the bedroom.
Falls are the main cause of trauma injuries that occur in the BPMC; Of the 889 trauma injuries treated in hospital in 2019, 671 were caused by falls.
Falls occur where there is something that can trip you up. Falls can occur in the bathrooms because the heart slows down when you sit down and you can become light. Wait a few seconds before jumping. “If you have a heart problem and you’re sitting on the toilet, people could die there,” said Ward.
The falls seen in most men are the result of being on a scale.
The small gravel in the paths and construction sites is a problem in Payson, sometimes it behaves like ball bearings that make you slide, fall and hit something else. “Don’t wear sandals in the gravel,” said Ward.
Falls often fall in the community when people don’t see the sidewalk, so be careful where you go. Inside the shop, watch out for liquids spilled on the floor. “Keep your glasses if you have vision problems. You need a doctor who checks the complete list of medications and can give you ideas on when you should be taking specific medications (to mitigate the risks of falling), “said Ward.
At the age of 75, older people begin to lose brain cells and get fluids around the brain. Men lose brain cells faster than women, but women have a 25% higher rate of fall trauma than men due to higher risk factors, such as osteoporosis.
Other factors contributing to the increased risk of fall injuries are lack of exercise, failure to comply with medical advice and taking unnecessary risks in activities.
Among baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1964), one in five falls causes death. Over 800,000 patients are hospitalized due to falls.
“Watch out for your hips: hip fractures are tough for us because we fall sideways on the hips,” said Ward.
Falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injury in people over the age of 65. “This is very dangerous since many people do not survive traumatic brain injuries,” said Ward.
As we age, bones become more fragile. Consult your doctor and take your medications if you have osteoporosis.
If you have bleeding after a fall, you need a neurosurgeon. “We exclude it with a CT scan to determine that there is no bleeding or fracture. If both patients have it, we send them to the Valley,” said Ward.
He added: “We give antiplatelet agents to keep platelets smooth so you don’t have a clot. These drugs thin your blood and you have to tell the hospital if you had a fall.”
Recognize risk factors: do not do risky things that could cause a fall such as wearing flip flops in the gravel outside; find ways to reduce risk, use a stick or walker after surgery until strength / balance is achieved; there are classes to improve balance like tai chi.
When the fear of falling no longer makes you do things, your strength and balance decrease. Find alternative ways to increase strength and balance. Don’t be afraid, do things that are important to you.