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During pandemic, accidental fall deaths increased - experts say death, or injuries from falls are often preventable


The percentage of older adults in Spokane County who die unattended after accidental falls went up during the pandemic. Experts say anxiety, isolation and an aging population are likely contributors.

But they also say there are steps older adults and their families can take, to prevent falls and injuries at home.

According to the annual Spokane County Medical Examiner’s report, 238 people died of accidental falls last year, compared to 163 in 2019. More than 87% of the people who died were older than 70.

Phil Helean, falls prevention coordinator at Aging and Longterm Care of Eastern Washington, said there are a few factors that have made older and disabled adults more vulnerable to falls. He said one factor is health issues caused by extended isolation. They include anxiety, loneliness and a fear of leaving the house.

“The best thing that they can do to help prevent falls is by staying active, and doing exercises and continuing to walk and do the things that they liked to do,” he said. “It makes for a happier, healthier life, and enables them to be at home.”

Helean said checking your house for potential hazards and ensuring adequate railings can also help prevent falls. He said Aging and Long-term Care also has classes that teach strengthening exercises and strategies for people to safely get up, or stabilize themselves when they feel unsteady or fall.

“We try to get them to think about, what are the reasons you have experienced some falls, have you noticed a trend, when it happens, where it happens, or does it happen when you’re in a hurry,” he said.

Rebecca White is a 2018 graduate of Edward R Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University. She's been a reporter at Spokane Public Radio since February 2021. She got her start interning at her hometown paper The Dayton Chronicle and previously covered county government at The Spokesman-Review.