Program helps seniors avoid falls
They are especially concerned about finding potential risks that may cause elderly people to fall.
In Waupaca County in 2002-04, 1,169 people over the age of 65 suffered falls that resulted in trips to an emergency room. Of those falls, 505 led to in-patient hospitalization, according to a 2006 study by the Injury Research Center at the Medical College of Wisconsin.
Falling was the leading cause of death among seniors in Waupaca County, the study found.
"We hope our fall risk assessment program will provide a safer environment for the elderly," said Annalisha Shaw, a paramedic with Waupaca Ambulance.
Shaw said the community outreach program is free of charge.
"We've noticed that when responding to calls for elderly patients, some of the falls could have been prevented," Shaw said.
When the paramedics visit a home, they will examine all the rooms for loose rugs, electrical cords that may be a trip hazards, debris or clutter, sturdy railings on the stairs, adequate lighting and switches that do not require a resident to cross a dark room to turn on the light, grab bars in the bathroom, whether the furniture is properly placed, the accessibility of the phone.
Shaw noted that a fall for an elderly person often results in serious injuries that require hospitalization.
"If an elderly person lives alone and falls, they can be down for hours, even days," Shaw said. "Sometimes, they are just too weak to get back up because they have been sick for a long time. Or they may suffer a fracture."
Shaw said the paramedics who visit will make recommendations to help make the home safer.
"We will also provide them with information on other services, such as Meals on Wheels or the Aging and Disability Resource Center, if we see that they could benefit from it," Shaw said.
For more information about the Waupaca and Weyauwega Area Ambulance fall prevention program or to schedule a visit, call 715-258-8103.
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