Every hour of every day, a Hawaii kupuna is taken by ambulance to an emergency room due to a fall injury. A slip or trip can be much more serious for a senior citizen, whose coordination and balance has likely decreased with age and could result in limited mobility and independence. Nobody knows this better than Lanai’s public health nurse Linda Mau, who is being honored for her work on fall prevention efforts and increasing awareness in the community. This month, the Department of Health named Mau as one of four individuals across the state to receive an “End of Fall” award, in the award’s inaugural year.
Lanai’s public health nurse
Many know Mau as the only full-time public health nurse on the island, and while it’s not easy being a one-woman show in a community with limited health care resources, her 27 years of nursing experience serve her well. Public health nurses like Mau have a unique role in that they specialize in caring for entire populations, rather than one patient at a time. By nature, their roles require them to identify gaps in health care access, advocate on behalf of their patients, and find ways to bring much-needed programs and services to the communities they serve.
In her short time on Lanai, Mau has done just that — setting up Red Cross training for disaster relief, meeting with nonprofit organizations to establish partnerships, working with LHES and more.
Fall prevention efforts recognized
Her current focus is to improve fall prevention safety in Lanai’s senior population through tai chi. That’s right, the graceful Chinese martial art combines balance, muscle strength and mobility, perfect principles for reducing fall risk in seniors. In fact, the National Council on Aging advocates tai chi as one of the most effective evidence-based programs for balance improvement.
But Mau didn’t just bring tai chi classes to Lanai, she took it one step further: She teaches the classes herself. Over the past few months, at her own expense, Mau has traveled to Maui to learn the art of tai chi, specifically for fall prevention, and became a certified instructor. She has held tai chi workshops at Lanai Community Hospital and Lanai Senior Center.
Mau will be recognized with a special trophy and proclamation at the Plaza Club in Honolulu. For more information on the DOH’s campaign to reduce injury from falls in older adults, visit www.nogethurt.hawaii.gov.