Occupational Therapy students assist with falls awareness event

College of Health and Behavioral Studies

by Morgan Vuknic, Creative Services Student Writer

OT Falls Prevention Event

Fall Prevention Awareness Week is observed during the first week of fall to increase awareness around falls and fall prevention.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, falls are the leading cause of injury-related death among adults age 65 and older and the fall death rate has been increasing.  The CDC also believes the rising number of deaths from falls among older adults can be addressed by screening for fall risk and intervening to address risk factors. 

On September 20, the Harrisonburg Parks and Recreation partnered with the Valley Program for Aging Services (VPAS), the Virginia Department of Aging and Rehabilitative Services (DARS), and the FREE Foundation to host Best Foot Forward an event that focused on bringing awareness to falls and strategies to prevent falls. This event was scheduled during Fall Prevention Awareness Week 2022.

Occupational Therapy professors Jeanne Wenos and Amy Russell Yun helped organize the event. They wanted their students to get real-life experience with the skills they have been learning in their classes. This event provided an opportunity for OT students to apply what they were learning in classes by conducting fall risk assessments for participants and assisting participants with acquiring resources like assistive technology if it was needed.

“We’ve had a lot of people come in today who have a heightened risk of falling,” Russell Yun said. “So, I think it’s helpful for students to engage with the community. It gives them a chance to recognize that they can prevent somebody from getting injured potentially by identifying risks.” 

While she was able to put the skills she has learned in class to use through having one-on-one interactions with people who may be at risk of falling, OT graduate student Grace Hooper said she enjoyed being able to help promote awareness to people as well.   

“One of our key OT values is safety,” Hooper said. “Falls are something that are really problematic, especially in older populations, which we’ve mainly seen come in today. I think events like these are important because they promote safety and awareness of one's environment.” 

Along with risk assessments, Best Foot Forward had tables set up by the Valley Program for Aging Services (VPAS) and the Foundation for Rehabilitation Equipment and Endowment (FREE) with each organization presenting information about the services they offer. VPAS and FREE each educate on different aspects of aging populations with VPAS offering services wellness programs, Medicare counseling, senior transportation and assistance and FREE taking in, sanitizing, and gifting mobility equipment to low-income, uninsured and under-insured populations.  

FREE executive director, Robin Ramsey said that what the company does is crucial because a lot of older people don’t want others to know that they need help. She said there were a lot of people who came into Best Foot Forward who didn’t want to look like they’re aging and who want to stay at home as long as possible.  

Along with providing people with information on mobility equipment, VPAS director of programs Joyce Nussbaum said Best Foot Forward is necessary because it makes people aware of falls and the dangers of them.  

“It’s exciting to have events like these,” Nussbaum said. “But the awareness part is important too. Most falls start with somebody saying ‘I was in a hurry’ or ‘I wasn’t paying attention’ and if we can just bring fall risk to the top of our attention, hopefully there will be less of them.”  

Through participating in the event with JMU’s OT program, graduate students Madeleine Masi, Daisy Smith and Lizzie Suhr said they enjoyed having the opportunity to interact with people from the community, since that’s not something they get the chance to do often in their classes. 

Masi said one of her favorite parts of the event was being able to educate people from the local community about falls and to provide them with resources that they might not have been aware of.  

“I think for a lot of people, falls are something that they think will never happen to them,” Masi said. “Through doing this event we’re able to raise awareness about falls and local resources to people who may be at high risk for falling.” 

While this was the first year that Best Foot Forward was held, Russell Yun said she hopes that it becomes an annual event as it’s vital for older populations to be educated on the risks of falls.  

“I believe in the mission,” Russell Yun said. “If one person is helped by this event and we can prevent somebody from falling or connect them with resources, then we’ve done something really good.”  

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Published: Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Last Updated: Thursday, January 4, 2024

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