HSC student advocates for falls prevention awareness in Tarrant County

Darlene WatkinsDarlene Watkins has dedicated her life to creating healthier and sustainable communities.

Her background in interdisciplinary design led her to work with various community organizations from Atlanta to California, but it was her passion for educating aging populations that fueled her desire to work with the National Council on Aging’s Matter of Balance Program and to create her business, Aging Well Texas.

“That education and practice led me to zoom in more on the physiology and to a certain extent the kinesiology aspect of seniors and older adults,” Watkins said.  “More and more seniors and older adults have an inactive lifestyle which may lead to imbalance and falls.”

Watkins, who at age 66 is a student at The University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth, has partnered with SaferCare Texas, to develop a social media campaign and website centered on Falls Prevention Week. SaferCare Texas is the patient safety wing of HSC.

“I invite the community to rethink the things and settings we live with, from the physical environment to our mental capacities, and what we can do with our bodies to remain independent as long as we can,” Watkins

Her interest in educating older adults on the importance of healthy lifestyles and movement led Watkins to pursue a degree in Lifestyle Health Science and Coaching from HSC’s School of Health Professions.

“I want to learn what I can about how the mind and body collaborate and function in regard to falling,” Watkins said. “This kind of information I can share with my students and the community.”

Watkins said her experience educating older adults in Fort Worth encouraged her to advocate for fall prevention awareness not only for seniors but for the medical professionals who work with them.

“I feel that our medical professionals and facilities should always have seniors and older adults’ interest as a priority,” Watkins said.  “HSC’s Center for Older Adults in Fort Worth is a prime example of human-centered visits and treatment. They are the model that others should be observing.”

The Alarming Numbers

Each year, 3 million older people are treated in emergency departments for fall injuries according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2015, the total medical costs for falls totaled more than $50 billion.

In 2021, Texas experienced over 2,000 deaths related to falls. In 2023 alone, more than 6,000 older adults in Tarrant County contacted MedStar requesting emergency medical services after falling.

SaferCare Texas clinician and nurse practitioner for the Center for Older Adults, Kate Taylor, sees many injuries related to falls during her house call visits.

“Falls are the number one cause of injury in older adults,” Taylor said. “During a house call visit, the clinician assesses for environmental contributors to falls, like throw rugs.”

Taylor also recommends several things to patients who have fallen and tend to fall often:

  1. Talk to your healthcare provider to see if any medications or health conditions could be causing the falls
  2. Talk to your healthcare provider regarding your bone health. If your bones are healthy, then you will be less likely to suffer a fracture from a fall. There are interventions that can minimize your risk for a bone fracture.
  3. Get a physical therapy evaluation and start on a program specifically for you. Typically, physical therapy can help with strength, flexibility, and coordination, which all help prevent falls. A physical therapist can also help decide which assistive device is best suited for you as well as teach you how to use the assistive device safely.

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