A new class offered by the Hamilton Fire Department is aiming to help older residents avoid falls, or at least learn how to fall in safer ways.
Falling can cause broken bones, head injuries or other serious problems, sometimes leading to eventual death, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. One out of five falls causes a serious injury, and national death rates caused by older adults falling have climbed from about 46 per 100,000 people in 2007, to about 62 per 100,000 in 2016, the agency said.
“We want people to live a healthy life,” said Mark Mignery, Emergency Medical Services coordinator for the fire department.
He noted that in 2018, fire crews responded to more than 12,000 EMS calls. Out of those, they treated 760 patients for injuries caused by falls, and another 298 calls for people needing help getting up after having fallen.
The “Stepping On” class, which started in Wisconsin, is pretty thorough: It lasts seven weeks, with a two-hour session each week. Those taking the class learn from a pharmacist, physical therapist, home-safety expert and vision expert.
“The program has been proven to reduce falls by 31 percent,” said Anne Riddiough, who was hired last year as EMS assistant and organized the class. The first class to be organized was filled and began Wednesday, but the department plans to offer another in coming months. Those interested in taking it can call 513-785-7500 and ask Riddiough to put them on a list to be invited to the next one.
With the course, seniors will learn a lot about exercises that help build core strength so they don’t fall as easily or can compensate for a trip they may encounter. They also will learn to be more aware of their surroundings, Riddiough said, and even learn safer ways to fall so they are less likely to be injured.
Mignery said he and Fire Chief Mark Mercer once visited the home of a man who repeatedly was falling when getting out of bed onto a slick tile floor.
“We went to Lowe’s, and we bought sandpaper strips, and put them right outside the bed,” Mignery said, “so when they stood up, they weren’t sliding.”
Falls can be dangerous even for firefighters helping the people back up, Mignery said.
One larger person who repeatedly fell led to “multiple work injuries, and tens of thousands of dollars worth of Workers’ Comp issues,” he said. “It put people temporarily off the job, required surgical intervention on a few of our members. So, looking at it retrospectively, how could we have been more proactive in dealing with that, as opposed to reactive, after it manifested itself as an issue?”
Hamilton residents interested in receiving a “home-health evaluation” can call either Mignery or Riddiough at the fire department, 513-785-7500, and either the fire department can perform one, or refer them to other organizations that can help.