Every twenty minutes an older adult in the United States dies from an unintentional fall (according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention) and many more are injured. Falls are one of the leading causes of death in older adults in the United States and, unfortunately, Minnesota is one of the states leading the nation in the number of accidental fall deaths. Not only are falls are expensive (the Center for Disease Control estimates the average cost of a fall is over $35,000 per fall) but falls are also the most common reason why seniors end up in nursing homes.
It is easy to see why falls prevention for seniors has become a priority nationwide; but did you know the Central Minnesota Home and Safety Coalition exists right in your community? The Central Minnesota Home and Safety Coalition was created in 2009 to address the issue of home safety specifically for older adults experiencing injury due to accidental falls in their home. The Central Minnesota Home and Safety Coalition is made up of members from the Greater St. Cloud Area Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP), Central Minnesota Council on Aging, the Faith Community Nurse Association, St. Cloud Fire and Police Departments, St. Cloud Hospital, and Whitney Senior Center.
Even though the statistics regarding falls are pretty dreary, the good news is 50% of falls can be prevented through home safety assessments, simple home modifications, regular strengthening exercise and proper medication management. As a result of this hopeful statistic, the Central Minnesota Home and Safety Coalition developed the “Falls Prevention Program”. The Falls Prevention Program provides free home safety assessments to older adults throughout Stearns, Benton and Sherburne counties. This program is made possible via the service and support of volunteers from the Greater St. Cloud Area Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP).
A home safety assessment consists of two trained, background checked, RSVP volunteers visiting older adults in their home to provide a non-judgmental, no pressure, fresh look at potential falling hazards in the home. At the completion of the home safety assessment volunteers share their findings with the client and recommend home modifications to keep clients free of accidental falls. The most common suggestions are installing night lights, removing scatter rugs and installing grab bars. In some cases, the Falls Prevention program is able to supply the materials and/or help with the installation for seniors who do not have the funds or ability to make the modifications themselves. If the Falls Prevention Program cannot provide the materials, they work with the client to identify community resources to assist.
The individuals who enter the homes are volunteers serving through RSVP. RSVP is a volunteer program which connects over 1,200 active adults, age 55 and better, with volunteer opportunities at nearly 200 human service agencies throughout Stearns, Benton and Sherburne counties.
Tom Jacobs is a RSVP volunteer who has been volunteering as a home safety assessor since 2010 and he feels it is very important for people to have their homes assessed for safety. Tom enjoys providing home safety assessments to older adults in the community because he relishes the opportunity to help clients identify simple and cost effective home modifications to be completed in order to keep individuals safe in their homes. Tom knows he truly makes a difference in the lives of the Falls Prevention clients as well as an impact in our community. “It’s really about the people and helping them see everything they can do to stay safe in their home” Tom commented when talking about the importance of home safety assessments.
Anyone who is interested in a free home safety assessment should contact the RSVP office at (320)255-7295. Staff and volunteers will work with potential clients to schedule a time which works for their schedule. The key to falls prevention is educating yourself on home safety.
Many people say “I don’t need a home safety assessment, I haven’t had a fall” but the truth is, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, each year over 2.5 million older adults are treated in emergency departments due to fall related injuries. Let us help you to educate yourself on Falls Prevention and don’t wait until you have a fall to take action. Let’s stand together to prevent falls in Central Minnesota!