February is, of course, when Americans celebrate Valentine’s Day, which makes it a perfect month to focus your outreach efforts on heart health. February is also the American Heart Association’s Heart Health Month, so EMS agencies have a natural ally with which to partner, plan and execute heart-health promotions. Activities focusing on heart-health awareness might include:
Blood pressure checks at the local library or senior center
AED demonstrations and installations in buildings frequented by seniors
Heart-healthy cooking demonstrations at the local firehouse
While you are focusing on heart health with seniors, educate them about other injury and illness prevention topics, such as:
Strategies for coping with the flu (you may want to host a flu shot clinic*)
The importance of regular exercise in maintaining mental and physical well-being
Nationwide, seniors are one of the largest consumers of emergency and prehospital healthcare. Almost 16 million Americans aged 65 and older visited a hospital emergency room in 2004, and these older Americans made up one-third of all ambulance transports, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Seniors can benefit greatly from outreach and education during EMS Week.
* Denotes online resource at www.emsweek.org
A good way to connect with local seniors is through your local Area Agency on Aging. These agencies provide information and resources to older adults and caregivers on a whole range of community services, such as nutrition, transportation, and health and wellness programs. If you’re not sure how to contact your local Area Agency for Aging, go to the federal Eldercare Locator program atwww.eldercare.gov or call (800) 677-1116.
Most EMS services are familiar with their local senior centers, nursing homes and housing facilities for the elderly. Use February to contact your colleagues in these communities and offer your expertise in teaching classes, entertaining and letting staff and residents know that you care.
Norwich Township Geriatric Safety Program
As America’s population ages, many EMS departments are developing safety and prevention programs geared to senior citizens. The Norwich Township Fire Department in Columbus, Ohio, is unique, because it developed its geriatric safety program based on data it collected from its patient care reports, as well as from the local hospital.
Take heart attacks, for example. One of the causes of heart attacks and heart problems in general, is the dangerous interaction between drugs. “We sponsor a lunch once a month at a local senior center,” said EMS Coordinator Vincent Papa. “Because we’ve teamed with hospitals in the area to create our prevention program, we hope to bring hospital pharmacists to one of these lunches with us. The seniors can bring a list of the medications they’re taking, and the pharmacists can take a look at the lists to spot any potentially dangerous interactions.”
Medication safety is only one part of the program. Papa said he and his partners will develop components on fall prevention, as well as home, fire and cooking safety.
It’s a Fact: Seniors at Risk for Serious Falls
Falls are a major threat to the health and independence of people aged 65 and older. Each year in the United States, nearly one-third of older adults experience a fall.
Approximately one out of ten falls among older adults results in a serious injury, such as a hip fracture or head injury. Many need to spend at least a year recovering in a long-term care facility. Some never return to their homes.
Falls are the leading cause of injury deaths among older adults.
Men are more likely to die from a fall. After adjusting for age, the fall fatality rate in 2004 was 49 percent higher for men.
Rates of fall-related fractures among older adults are more than twice as high for women as for men. In 2003, 72 percent of older adults admitted to the hospital for hip fractures were women.
For more, visit: www.kcsafesteps.org
King County’s Safe Steps Program Helps Seniors Stay on Their Feet
When Washington state Governor Christine Gregoire proclaimed September 18, 2008, Fall Prevention Day, the King County EMS Division, along with the King County Fire & Life Safety Association, King County Fire Marshals Office and the Healthy Aging Partnership, developed a regional fall prevention campaign called Safe Steps: Health, Safety & Independence for Seniors.
This campaign was designed to increase public awareness about the risks of falls and residential fires. Two half-day educational workshops were hosted in May 2008, for healthcare professionals to learn about fall and fire prevention. Each of the 98 people that attended the workshop received a tool kit that had key messages for fall and fire prevention, as well as various state, federal and local best practice prevention programs. In addition, 21 organizations, including senior community centers, hospitals, senior housing facilities, and YMCAs, agreed to implement Safe Steps educational events in their communities. These events, along with key fall and fire prevention messages, were promoted through the Website www.kcsafesteps.org. Information was also available through the Senior Services of Seattle & King County hotline.
The education efforts were supported by a community awareness campaign, which included radio ads, bus boards and a public relations campaign. In total, 264 radio ads were aired on KING FM and KOMO 1000 for a fourweek blast, and mobile advertisements covered the sides of 88 metro buses around the county.