Health care professionals and aging experts are gathered in Des Moines today to discuss strategies for preventing falls among older Iowans. Binnie LeHew, with the Iowa Department of Public Health, says Iowa has a higher death rate from falls – among adults 65 and older – than the national average.

“(Falls) are also the leading cause injury hospitalizations and emergency departments visits,” LeHew says. “We know that falls are preventable, so we know this is really something we should be working on.”

The cost of hospitalization care in Iowa for falls is approximately $92 million a year. LeHew says there are a number of steps older Iowans can take to minimize the risk of a fall related injury.

“If you live in your home, make sure your surfaces are safe, so you don’t have rugs you can slip and fall on. Also, making sure you know your medications are interacting properly so you’re not taking a medication that can put you at a greater risk (of a fall),” LeHew said.

The Iowa Falls Prevention Summit  is a one day event organized by the Iowa Advisory Council for Brain Injuries, the Iowa Department on Aging and the Iowa Department of Public Health.

Tips for older Iowans to prevent falls from IDPH:
· Take your time – get out of chairs slowly. Sit for a moment before getting out of bed.
· Wear sturdy, well-fitting shoes with low heels and non-slip soles.
· See an eye specialist once a year. Poor vision can increase your chances of falling.
· Be aware that some medications have side effects that can cause dizziness.
· Increase physical activity – regular exercise increases balance and strength.
· Use non-slip mats in the bathtub and on shower floors.
· Have grab bars installed next to the toilet and in the tub or shower.
· Have handrails on both sides of stairways.
· Improve lighting in the entire home.
· Remove tripping hazards like throw rugs and clutter in walkways.