Wisconsin officials look to decrease falls among elderly

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Wisconsin health officials are working to prevent falls in the state's increasingly high elderly population to reduce physical and financial tolls on hospitals, according to U.S. News & World Report.

Wisconsin ranks second in fall-related deaths in the country among those 65 and older, with a rate that is two times the national average, according to the Wisconsin Institute for Healthy Aging.

That fatality rate has risen over the last two decades, Jane Mahoney, MD, University of Wisconsin-Madison geriatrics professor, told Wisconsin Public Radio. By 2030, as many as one-fourth of Wisconsin's residents will be elderly, with fewer younger people to care for them, Dr. Mahoney said.

In 2013, Green Bay, Wis., hospitals treated an average of 21 serious falls daily, which cost nearly $15 million annually. Since then, those values increased to 23 serious falls reported daily in area emergency rooms, which cost nearly $19 million annually, Barb Michaels, prevention program coordinator at the Aging and Disability Resource Center in Brown County, Wis., told Wisconsin Public Radio.

Wisconsin has implemented several fall prevention programs. The most widespread program, called Stepping On, recently brought seniors together in a Dane County, Wis., gymnasium to learn how to avoid dangerous falls. A UW-Madison study of 3,000 Wisconsin seniors who participated in Stepping On showed a 50 percent reduction in falls six months after the program, according to the Wisconsin Public Radio report.

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