UW News

September 12, 2008

UW Medicine invites public to free Fall Prevention Fairs beginning Sept. 18

UW Medicine will host free Fall Prevention Fairs beginning Sept. 18 at its medical centers and 12 community centers in the Seattle area. Gov. Chris Gregoire has proclaimed Sept. 18 as Fall Prevention Awareness Day for Washington.

Falls are the leading cause of injury-related deaths and hospital admissions for Americans 65 and older and a major threat to independent living. Head injuries and bone fractures are especially serious. After a hip fracture, for example, about 20 percent of patients are unable to live on their own. Even if a fall does not result in hospitalization, fear of falling can lead to depression, hopelessness and loss of functional independence.

“Despite their serious impacts, falls are not a normal part of the aging process,” said Dr. Elizabeth Phelan, director of the Fall Prevention Clinic at Harborview Medical Center and a UW associate professor of medicine. “While some risk factors are more common as we get older, we can reduce the likelihood of falls with appropriate medical care and safety precautions.”

A comprehensive medical evaluation is recommended for older people considered at high risk for falling. This would include people who have required medical attention for a previous fall, people who have fallen more than once in the past year and people who have walking and/or balance problems.

At the UW Medicine fairs, physical therapists and students will provide mobility and balance testing. The mobility test is a timed exercise. You stand up from a chair, walk a short distance, return to the chair and sit down. For the balance test, you begin by standing next to a wall with an arm out in front at shoulder height. Instructions are given to see how far forward you can reach without feeling that you are going to fall.

For more information:

For questions about the UW Medicine Fall Prevention Fairs, contact Laura Robinson at (206) 598-5370. For appointments at the Fall Prevention Clinic at Harborview Medical Center, call (206) 744-4191. To learn more about fall prevention, visit www.fallsfreewashington.org or www.harborview.org (click on the Fall Prevention Clinic under “Clinics and Services”).

Fairs will take place at the following locations:

Sept. 18

• Harborview Medical Center, noon to 3 p.m., 325 Ninth Ave., Seattle, 98104. Go to the Patient and Family Resource Center, ground floor, near the Gift Shop.

• UW Medical Center, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., 1959 N.E. Pacific, Seattle, 98195. Go to the third floor lobby.

• UW Medical Center—Roosevelt Clinic, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., 4225 Roosevelt Way N.E., Seattle, 98105.

• Ballard Northwest Senior Activity Center, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., 5429 32nd Ave. N.W., Seattle, 98107.

• ElderHealth South King County, 2 to 5 p.m., 7829 S. 180th St., Kent, 98032.

• Jefferson Community Center, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., 3801 Beacon Ave. S., Seattle, WA 98108.

• Northgate Community Center, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., 10510 Fifth Ave. N.E., Seattle, 98125.

• Northshore Senior Center, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., 10212 E. Riverside Dr., Bothell, 98011.

• Queen Anne Community Center, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., 1901 First Ave. W., Seattle, 98119.

• Ravenna Community Center, 12:30 to 3:30 p.m., 6535 Ravenna Ave. N.E., Seattle, 98115.

• Redmond Senior Center, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., 8703 160th Ave. N.E., Redmond, 98052.

• Wallingford Senior Center, 9:30 a.m. to noon, 4649 Sunnyside Ave. N., Suite 140, Seattle, 98103.

Sept. 19

• Central Area Senior Center, 10 a.m. to noon, 500 30th Ave. S., Seattle, 98144.

Sept. 23

• West Seattle Community Center, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., 4217 S.W. Oregon, Seattle, 98116.

Sept. 25

• Southeast Seattle Senior Center, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., 4655 S. Holly, Seattle, 98118.

At the fairs, exhibitors will also present a four-step approach to fall prevention for older adults:

Begin a regular exercise program. Exercise is the best way to improve balance, mobility and reaction time. Additional goals are to increase lower body strength and improve flexibility and endurance. Good choices include walking outside or indoors at malls, cycling, swimming, water aerobics and Tai Chi.

Have your health-care provider review your medicines. A number of medications can contribute to falls by causing dizziness and drowsiness. Doctors and pharmacists may be able to help reduce these side effects by prescribing lower doses or suggesting alternatives to the medications.

Have your vision checked. Since cataracts, age-related macular degeneration and other vision problems contribute to falls, older adults should have regular eye exams. They should be especially careful on stairs when adjusting to new glasses or multifocal lenses.

Make your home safer. Tips for home safety include removing tripping hazards, using non-slip mats in the bathtub and on shower floors, installing grab bars in bathrooms and handrails on both sides of stairways, and improving lighting throughout the home. Older people should wear supportive shoes with low heels and wide toe boxes. They should not walk barefoot or in socks.

About UW Medicine

UW Medicine is a regional and national health-care leader. Its system of care includes Harborview Medical Center, UW Medical Center, UW Medicine Neighborhood Clinics, UW Physicians and the UW School of Medicine.