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'Stepping On' classes march forward at RFAH

Listening to River Falls Police Chief Roger Leque talk about safe walking habits during last week's Stepping On class are, from left to right, Kent Kittleson, the hospital's rehabilitation manager, Marcella Janovec, Colleen Risau, Frieda Erickson, Frances Vandenberg, Nancy Peters, Florence Trowbridge, Eleanor Fisher and Marie Clafin.

"I've fallen and I can't get up!"

Many people have seen the commercial on TV that deals with the plight of a woman who's had an accidental fall. Some have even made the lady, helpless on the floor, and her plea the butt of their jokes.

But falling and sustaining any kind of trauma or injury is no laughing matter.

That's why River Falls Area Hospital, partnering with the River Falls Medical Clinic and local emergency medical services providers, has launched a falls-prevention initiative in Pierce and St. Croix counties.

Cyndy Bayer, an RN and the hospital's falls prevention coordinator, says: "When you think about trauma, the first things that usually come to mind are motor vehicle crashes, gunshot wounds or farm injuries, etc.

"You would probably be surprised to discover that falls have surpassed motor vehicle crashes as the most common cause of injury-related death in Wisconsin.

"Falls can cause serious injuries in people of any age, but are especially dangerous for the elderly."

To inform and educate the public, Bayer along with a team of other medical professionals, have developed a multidisciplinary Community Falls Prevention Program for people 65 and older.

According to Bayer, "Our program has identified a number of risk factors seniors have for falling that can be prevented. These include osteoporosis, lack of physical activity, vision problems, medications and some medical conditions.

"Our program works on identifying risks and helping seniors minimize these risks. Falls can be prevented."

Part of the program is a set of classes called "Stepping On."

@by:Successful first try

@t:This first introduction of the program ties in with September carrying the title of National Falls Prevention Month.

Stepping On's first seven-week session of classes set up by Bayer and her team began at the end of August. It filled up immediately with persons eager to learn about fall prevention and has been well received.

Now there is a waiting list and plans are in the works for a second seven-week session. It will follow the same schedule, with those enrolled meeting for two hours once a week.

Heather Logelin, the hospital foundation's executive director, has been a part of Bayer's team.

"Six months ago, I knew nothing about falls prevention programs or about the devastating impact of geriatric falls," said Logelin. "Since that time, I've had the opportunity to learn a lot about evidence-based approaches to falls prevention, and I am so excited about our hospital's commitment to this work."

Another reason the new program will benefit the elderly was explained by Bayer.

"The senior population is growing at a rapid rate and the need for a community-based falls prevention program is evident," Bayer said. "Our goal is to work with community members who may be at a risk for falls or who have fallen. We then help them understand ways to prevent falls so they can lead healthy, independent lives in their own homes for as long as possible."

To learn more about the community falls prevention program or the Stepping On classes, call Bayer at 715-426-4527.