Doctors see the most falls during spring

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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) Falls are the number one reason why someone calls for help in Vermont. In fact, health officials say Vermont has the second highest rate of falls in the country.

Just last year, there were 5,000 falls that lead to hospitalization and 400 of those people died.

"People who are afraid to fall are actually at a higher risk to fall," said Tanya Wells, the injury prevention chief at the Vermont Department of Health.

The people who are scared of falling are generally 65 plus. But it's this time of year doctors see the most falls.

"People don't necessarily fall in the wintertime. What happens is they stay inside all winter, they get weak they don't get the vitamin D from the sun and they come out in the spring and summer and have a fall," Wells said.

Wells says there are three other big reasons for falls in Vermont: The first is because the state has an older population that's aging. Secondly, the state has an older housing stock, which includes uneven stairs and floors. And some of those houses don't have proper railing and lighting. Lastly, some of the older Vermonters have problems with vision and medication affecting their balance.

Falling is only one problem, it's what happens after the fall that has health experts.

"Falls are the number one cause of brain injury," said Barbara Winters with the Brain Injury Association of Vermont.

The signs of a brain injury may not happen right away. Winters says oftentimes they go unrecognized because health officials are focused on treating the fall and not a potential brain injury.

"What they aren't asking oftentimes is about concussion and doing any kind of concussion assessment, and that can make the healing process more difficult," Winters said.

The other problem is some people have a serious fall but are able to get up and don't seek medical help. One way to avoid falling is to get over the fear of doing it by picking up an exercise like tai chi.

"Increasing your strength and balance are really important," Wells said.

Health officials say if you feel like you are at risk for falling the first thing you should do is contact our doctor. The next step is to come up with a plan to avoid falling and give you confidence, whether that's asking for help getting up a curb or making sure rails are available.

For more information on preventing falls, click here.