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Falls Prevention Week: Protecting Vision to Prevent Accidents

Today marks the beginning of this year’s commemoration of Falls Prevention Week, which goes from September 18 to 22, 2023. This nationwide observance brings together state coalitions and partners to increase awareness on “preventing falls, reducing the risk of falls, and helping older adults live without the fear of falling.” The 16th annual Falls Prevention Awareness Week focuses on the theme “From Awareness to Action.” One in four Americans ages 65 and older experience a fall each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Falls are the leading cause of injury for people ages 65 and older, threatening safety and independence and generating enormous economic and personal costs. Older adults with vision loss have been reported to be twice as likely to report falls than those without vision loss. Risk factors include loss of visual acuity, visual field, contrast sensitivity (the ability to differentiate between light and dark) glare, balance issues, lack of mobility skills, and co-morbidities, to name a few. Through “practical lifestyle adjustments, evidence-based falls prevention programs, and clinical-community partnerships, the number of falls among older adults can be substantially reduced.” For people with vision loss, Audrey Demmitt, RN and VisionAware peer advisor, suggests developing a “fall prevention plan,” which can include:
– Making modifications in your home to reduce and minimize fall hazards. Reduce clutter, maximize lighting and contrast, and reorganize;
– Increasing lighting in hallways, stairways, and outdoor walkways. Place nightlights in hallways, bedroom, and bathroom; and
– Considering orientation and mobility instruction and using a mobility cane.

The CDC offers additional recommendations to prevent falls, such as:

– Doing exercises to improve strength and balance;

– Wearing sturdy, nonslip footwear to help with balance and mobility and to reduce ankle injuries;

– Removing throw rugs or using double-sided tape to prevent them from slipping; and

– Installing handrails on stairs and grab bars in the bathroom and shower.
For additional information about this week’s commemoration, check out the National Council on Aging (NCOA) Falls Prevention Awareness Week Toolkit. Learn more here from the CDC on Vision Impairment and Older Adult Falls. And read the APH Connect Center piece here on Low Vision and Fall Prevention. The article includes a recording of a webinar on low vision and falls.

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