By Kris Leonhardt
CENTRAL WISCONSIN – According to the CDC, one in four people aged 65 and older falls each year and every 20 minutes, an older adult dies from a fall. More than three million older adults are treated in emergency departments for non-fatal injuries each year.
But, falls aren’t just limited to those over 65, they can happen at any time to anyone of us hurrying through everyday life. One in five falls causes a serious injury, such as head trauma or a fracture.
No one is more aware of this than Katrina Shankland, who serves in the Wisconsin State Legislature and lives in central Wisconsin.
“On Inauguration Day, I was dressed up and ready to go to the Capitol when I fell down my stairs and landed on my lower back,” recalled Shankland.
“Not only did I break my back, but after months of physical therapy and medical appointments, it became clear that I suffered a serious injury that required additional treatment and support. Thanks to incredible health care professionals, I am finally on the road to recovery. I am deeply grateful for the community support, encouraging words and thoughtful advice, and offers to cook meals and help with anything I needed. It reinforced why I am so proud to represent our community – we have the most generous, caring, and supportive neighbors, and we’re always there for each other”
In September, the Aging & Disability Resource Center (ADRC) of Portage County held a fall prevention resource fair to highlight the fact that falls can be prevented.
“There are a lot of causes, it could be poor lighting, it could be eyesight, it could be pets, it could be too much clutter, it could be loose rugs, it could be just trying to reach for something, it could be medication related,” said ADRC Health Promotion Coordinator Dana Lawson.
“Once someone falls, they are more likely to fall again. That is very common where if someone falls, they are going to fall multiple times per year. It’s not always good outcomes.
“The long-term effects, even if it is just one fall, it really is just kind of a cascade of events that is the decline in their health.”
Lawson recommends taking a workshop. The ADRC offers Stepping On classes at the Lincoln Center in Stevens Point, Second Street Community Center in Marshfield, Forest Park Village in Wausau, and the South Wood County YMCA in Wisconsin Rapids, and through the Aging and Disability Resource Center of Clark County.
But, if you aren’t able to take a class, just slowing down can do a lot to prevent falls.
“Being aware and just slowing down, thinking about what you are doing. Always know that if the phone rings, you don’t need to rush there; you can call them back. Just slowing down and taking your time,” Lawson said.
“Falls prevention is vitally important, and I have noticed I am much more measured and intentional in my day to day life. This long-term injury has taught me a number of things: slow down, take a breath, and be aware of your surroundings,” Shankland added.
“I practice patience and gratitude more frequently. One fall down the stairs has changed my life significantly over the last nearly two years, but I am more thoughtful and deliberate as I go about my day.
“A life-changing fall can happen to anyone, so I encourage people to be mindful of not only stairs or ladders, but also throughout their environment.”