The first day of autumn is national Falls Prevention Awareness Day, founded by the National Council on Aging in 2008.
Falls Prevention Awareness Week was embraced here in Maine by the Piscataquis Thriving in Place Collaborative. The week's events featured four days of fall risk screenings, which included pharmacist medication reviews, balance and vision screening at various community centers including a church, fitness center, health center and town hall.
A highlight of the week was The Falling Monologues, a play that addresses falls through humor. The Falling Monologues was written by Marilyn Faber for the University of Southern California's Fall Prevention Center of Excellence. AARP Maine sat down with one of the actors, Cherly Crabtree, to discuss the show.
"I played a woman who ran to the mailbox in her slippers and fell, breaking her hip and resulting in a prolonged hospital stay. My character developed a real fear of falling and she became quite isolated in her home," Cheryl describes.
"Another actor told the story of an older gentleman who was walking his dog. The sidewalks were uneven and the man fell. He referred to the fall as 'IT' and he hated the fact that IT had happened to him. He hurt his knee, broke and arm and got a concussion. He too ended up in the hospital. His fall was the spark of his depression that he was able to discuss through his dog. 'The dog was very depressed and felt a huge amount of responsibility for IT', the character tells the audience. 'The dog refused treats and only started feeling more like himself after going to therapy and realizing that IT happens and all we can do is recover and be careful.'
A third story included the risk of fire. A character was changing a light bulb and her shoe caught on the ladder. When she fell she was tangled and couldn't move, and all she could do was panic about the risk of fire," Cheryl continues.
"All of the monologues address the serious impact of falling as we age. If and when we fall, we are surprised by the high medical costs and the length of stays in the hospital, rehab facility and ongoing physical therapy. Falls can result in depression and social isolation, which are two of the main points the show helps to get across using humor."
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of falls and costs to treat fall injuries are likely to increase in the coming years. Each year, over 800,000 patients are hospitalized due to a fall injury to the tune of $31 billion in Medicare costs. According to the CDC, the average hospital cost for a fall injury of over $30,000, a cost that increases with the patient's age.
Fall Prevention Awareness Day was founded in 2008 by the National Council on Aging. Since 2008, NCOA has increased participation from 11 states to 48. This year's theme was Ready, Steady, Balance: Prevent Falls in 2016. For more information about fall prevention including videos and factsheets, click here to visit the National Council on Aging website.