By Erica Ridgeway, BSN, RN – Sheridan Memorial Hospital Trauma Program Coordinator
Sheridan Memorial Hospital’s Trauma Program reviews cases for patients who have suffered a trauma of any kind. Along with this, we review and develop policies and protocols to ensure best practices are followed and that each traumatic injury receives the most appropriate care. We also work to provide education about current policies, changes in policies, and changes in best practices. This includes doing community outreach and information related to injury prevention. By following these protocols, Sheridan Memorial Hospital has earned the designation as an Area Trauma Hospital from the Wyoming State Trauma office.
Injury prevention is an important part of a successful trauma program. One of the most common traumatic injuries in any trauma registry are falls resulting in fractures, therefore making fall prevention and safety extremely important.
The National Coalition on Aging notes that one in four Americans aged 65+ falls each year. Falls are the leading cause of fatal injury in older adults and are the most common cause of trauma-related hospitalizations for that population as well.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one out of five falls results in a serious injury such as a broken bone or a head injury. More than 95% of hip fractures are caused by falling.
There are many conditions that can increase the risk of falls:
- Lower body weakness & impaired balance: As we age, many of us lose some coordination, balance and flexibility, oftentimes due to inactivity.
- Use of medications: Some prescription and even over-the-counter medications can cause dizziness and dehydration, making you more likely to fall.
- Vision problems and changes: In the aging eye, less light reaches the retina, thus making tripping hazards and obstacles harder to see.
If you have concerns about falling or other issues, schedule an appointment to talk to your doctor or healthcare provider. They can evaluate your risk of falling and help implement specific things you can do. They can also refer you to a physical or occupational therapist who can help with balance and strength training. Tai Chi is an exercise that is often taught to help with balance and stability. There are many fitness programs offered both in-person and virtually that are designed for older adults. Additionally, some physical or occupational therapists will even come into your home and help assess safety and tripping hazards.
If you have had a fall or have a nagging ache, pain or physical impairment preventing you from going about your daily activities, Sheridan Memorial Hospital’s Wyoming Rehab may be able to help you. Their physical therapists offer free screens and treatment recommendations for non-emergent physical impairments and injuries.
Some things you may want to consider implementing in your home include:
- Get rid of things you could trip over and reduce clutter; rugs, in particular, can cause falls.
- Add grab bars inside and outside your tub or shower and next to the toilet.
- Put railings on both sides of stairs.
- Make sure your home has lots of light by adding more or brighter light bulbs.
- As the weather is getting colder, make sure you have appropriate footwear with a good grip.
- Devise a plan with family or friends for snow and ice removal around your home’s exterior.
So again, reach out to your healthcare team! They can assess not only your risk of falling but also what steps to take to prevent a fall, as well as assess your ability to participate in a fitness program. Implementing the appropriate safety and health measures can greatly reduce your risk of falls and injury.