Guest article by: George M. Lange, MD, FACP, Chair ACP & AD by the Wisconsin Medical Society
National Injury Prevention Day (NIPD) was designated as November 18 in 2020. NIPD is designed to raise awareness about the burden of injury and violence and the need for change. It is dedicated to educating and empowering communities to make a difference in reducing injuries, deaths, and disabilities. Did you know that injuries and violence are the leading cause of death and disability for people ages one to 44? NIPD tries to reduce the burden you or others may encounter.
What can you do for NIPD?
You can get or stay fit with regular exercise like walking for 30 minutes 3 to 5 times per week at a pace you’re comfortable with.
- Use your seatbelt when you’re traveling in a motor vehicle. Drive safely. No distracted driving. Don’t drink or use drugs and drive.
- When you ride a bike, wear a bike helmet.
- If you own a gun, store it safely. Store the ammunition safely. Guns are the number one cause of death in people under 25 years of age.
- Reduce your risk of falls with grab bars, no throw rugs or electric cords across walking areas and practice balance exercises available from your physician or on the internet. Good shoes and avoid slippery or cluttered surfaces.
- Make sure your immunizations are all up to date.
- Wash your hands after using the bathroom and before meals.
- Don’t smoke.
Regular visits to your physician to screen for high blood pressure, high fats in your blood, obesity, chronic lung disease and diabetes. All of these, if untreated, will increase your risk of stroke, heart attack and premature death or disability. All of these are treatable with lifestyle changes and/or medications.
Drowning is the number one cause of death in children ages 1-4. Drowning can happen to anyone, anytime there is access to water. You can prevent or reduce this risk by having children get swimming lessons at an early age. Drowning happens in seconds and is often silent. Children need close and constant supervision when in or around water. Build fences that fully encloses the pool with self-closing and self-latching gates. Wear a life jacket. Learn CPR. Know the risks of natural waters. Avoid alcohol or drugs before or during swimming. Use the buddy system. Take additional precautions for medical conditions like seizures.
It is strongly recommended you have a health care power of attorney.
What’s that, you ask? This is a document you create with the help of a facilitator, trusted person, and witnesses. You may want to enlist the help of an attorney, but that’s optional. Health care power of attorney (POA) enables you to direct your health care even if the doctors can’t communicate with you. With this document you choose an adult person who is aware of your health care goals and wishes to speak for you. How does this relate to NIPD? Have you or someone you know had to make decisions concerning a loved one’s health care when they had to guess what the patient would want?
Wisconsin is not a next of kin state, so the spouse is not automatically the one to make decisions about their spouse’s health care. Maybe your spouse has parents or siblings who would vie to be the health care agent. This happened with a patient suffering dementia who was under my care. The patient’s dementia was severe enough that she could not make her own medical decisions and never completed a health care POA. The husband and daughter both applied to be her guardian. The Judge requested their plans to provide for this patient who now needed a nursing home. The husband and daughter both submitted plans, and the Judge felt both parties had great plans for the patient. The Judge couldn’t decide who had the best plan and appointed a guardian ad litem. This person didn’t know the patient, her husband or daughter. The moral of this story is, “It’s never too early until it’s too late to complete a health care power of attorney.” This did cause strife between the patient’s husband and her daughter.
NIPD also has recommendations for infant and child safety.
NIPD advises that an infant sleeps alone on their back and is in a car seat when in a car. Toddlers should be in car seat and, when older, a booster seat. You should never leave a toddler or infant alone in the bath, bathroom or around a body of water. When the child is older, they should wear a bike helmet when riding a bike. All children should receive their immunizations at appropriate ages. If there is a gun in the house, it should be safely stored, and the ammunition stored separately. The above advice is not a complete list of what can be done to prevent injuries and death, contact your physician for additional suggestions.
You can visit the NIPD website, sign your organization up as supporter, put a green light on your organization logo, take a picture and send it to National Injury Prevention Day. May you reduce your risk of injury, disability or death.