Learn tips for fall prevention at VCC

Vashon Community Care (VCC) and Vashon Fire & Rescue (VIFR) will team up to present an open house on Friday focused on fall prevention for seniors.

Falls are a leading cause of injuries in older people, and many times the accidents could have been prevented, according to Donna Zaglin, VCC’s director of clinical services.

Community members of all ages are welcome at the open house, Zaglin said, where occupational therapists, physical therapists and VIFR staff will be on hand to address fall risks and prevention. They will offer free balance screening tests, blood pressure checks and medication reviews and will provide a questionnaire participants can use to assess their fall risks.

At 1 p.m. Marc Brownell, VIFR’s battalion chief of emergency medical services, will offer a presentation on falls, the toll they take and steps people can take in their homes to prevent them. Prevention is important, he said, noting that the Island’s first responders often see fall risks in senior’s homes, even when the call is not fall related.

“About half the time, we visit elderly people, there are easily identified trip hazards or falls involved,” he said.

Those hazards might be loose throw rugs, slippery stairs, even beds that are too high or too low and difficult to move from.

In addition to home-related hazards, deteriorating strength and balance also contribute to falls, and often these problems can be improved, according to Jan Kittleson, VCC’s outgoing rehabilitation manager.

Following Brownell’s presentation, occupational therapist Bob Spivey will provide further information, including  how physical and occupational therapy can help prevent falls. Spivey is replacing Kittelson as VCC’s rehabilitation manager.

One of the most worrisome fall-related injuries is a broken hip, Zaglin, said, because such injuries often lead to a downward health spiral. Other injuries, too, may be severe. At VCC, Zaglin noted, 66 percent of people who have been served by the center’s rehabilitation services have been recovering from fall-related injuries.

Many people have the misconception that growing weaker and losing one’s sense of balance is an inevitable part of aging, Kittleson said, stressing that does not have to be the case.

“Decreased physical strength — that’s the number one reason people go to a nursing center,” she said. Often declining strength can be turned around. “You can be 105 years old and strengthen a muscle.”

The open house will meet from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Friday at the rehabilitation room at VCC.


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