You’ve worked hard to get to this point in your life. Retirement is here! Now you can enjoy doing all those things you’ve been planning for – travel, hiking, fishing, gardening, golf – the list is only limited by your imagination, unless you experience an unexpected setback, like an accidental fall.

According to the Arizona Falls Prevention Coalition, in 2014, unintentional falls were the leading cause of injury-related mortality among Arizona residents aged 65 years and older. Statistics show that the rate of fall-related injury and death is even higher in Northern Arizona, where we deal with a greater number of specific risk factors such as freezing weather accompanied by icy streets and sidewalks, hills, unpaved streets and trails, and historic homes with wood floors and staircases. Even the new activities you are enjoying can increase your risk for a fall.

Numerous studies indicate that as we get older, falls can have a more serious impact on one’s health. Chris Thompson, RN, BSN, Trauma Service Program Coordinator at Yavapai Regional Medical Center, says that this is reflected in YRMC admission rates. “At 59 years and below, the admission rate for falls is about 17%,” Thompson says, “And for 60 and above, admission rate is up towards 50%.”

While the numbers are alarming, there are many things you can do to decrease your risk of an unexpected fall. A new chapter of the statewide coalition, called Arizona Falls Prevention Coalition, Northern Chapter, is addressing our specific needs in Northern Arizona.

“The coalition is very active,” says Virginia Rodriguez, Health Education Coordinator, Yavapai County Community Health Services, “At each meeting we have different organizations present a variety of different topics related to things like fall risks, assessment, recovery and education.”

Rodriguez adds that raising awareness of risk factors for falling and how to prevent them is one of the chapter’s main goals, “There are a number of resources and organizations that are great assets to the community. We want to get the word out.”

Connecting with available resources is a great way to keep your risk for falls at a minimum. But what can you do right now? Larry Parsons MD, Director of Inpatient Palliative Medicine, Yavapai Regional Medical Center PhysicianCare, has a brief checklist that can make a big difference:

  • Medication management: Review all of your medications with your healthcare provider. Find out if there are any that you no longer need to take. Ask whether there are any adverse drug interactions you should be aware of.
  • Home safety assessment: Check your home for loose rugs or electrical cords, clutter, unstable furniture, poor lighting and other fall hazards.
  • Hydration: Drink plenty of water throughout the day. This helps keep your mind clear and helps prevent dizziness.
  • Stand up slowly: Sit at the bed or chair for a few moments and pump your hands and legs, then slowly stand up.
  • Exercise: Even if it is walking a little each day or doing chair exercises, do what you can to keep your muscles active.

Be on the lookout for further information from Arizona Falls Prevention Coalition, Northern Chapter. Their goal is to keep you informed so that you can make the most of your retirement years, filled with physical activity and fun here in Northern Arizona.