Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Working to stop falls

LIZ MACINTYRE
06 Oct, 2011 12:00 AM

REDUCING the number of falls by the elderly in the home is about striking a balance between safety and independence, Mount Isa's inaugural Healthy Ageing Expo has been told.

The expo at the Mount Isa Civic Centre yesterday attracted a crowd of about 60 elderly, some with walkers and walking sticks, a few in wheelchairs and many able-bodied.

The expo, organised by Mount Isa Senior Safety (MISS) and funded by the Mount Isa City Council, was a falls prevention information day with 10 community organisations providing interactive stalls with everything from free blood pressure-testing to podiatry advice to a session on a Wii-fit (computer game) to gauge how good your balance is.

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There are more than 17,000 older Queenslanders each year having fall-related injuries, and MISS was keen to stress the benefits of healthy ageing as a preventive measure. Occupational therapist Susan Elliott, one of the organisers and a member partner of MISS said she was very excited by the numbers attending. "For our first expo, it was an excellent turnout and I received really good feedback from those who attended." A range of health professionals gave short addresses on preventing falls and living healthily.

Occupational therapist Jessica Donegan said most falls occured in the home - the bedroom, garden or living area - so the audience was given simple tips on how to make their homes safer. "Frail older people, people with a disability and carers may be eligible for subsidised home modifications," Ms Donegan said.

 Dementia adviser Jenn O'Neill said people with dementia were at greater risk of falling. "Dementia is most prevalent in the 85 and over age group," Ms O'Neill said. "In fact a third of the population over 85 have dementia." Among those with dementia, 75 to 80 per cent are likely to have a fall, and those who do suffer falls are more likely to be admitted to nursing homes. "Carers need to strike a balance between safety and independence," Ms O'Neill said. "It is important for people with disabilities to stay active."

Physiotherapist Andrea Leigh said physical activity could help manage and possibly prevent chronic conditions and she encouraged her audience to be more active. "It is never too late. "Think of movement as an opportunity, not an inconvenience." Ms Leigh said falls were the highest cause of hospitalisation for over 65 year olds. "Exercise improves balance and helps prevent falls and injury," she said and advised those who weren't currently exercising to see their GP first.

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