Do you have a fear of falling? Have you had a few close-calls over the past year? Are you concerned about slipping during the upcoming Midwest winter season? If you thought about answering yes to any of these questions, a physical therapist can help!
September is Senior Fall Prevention Awareness Month! It’s the perfect time for older adults and caregivers to learn more about the risks of falling and ways to take action to prevent future injury.
IMPACT OF FALLS
Falls are the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries for older Americans with 1 in 4 older adults falling each year. These falls can result in injuries including hip fractures, broken bones, and head injuries. Some can be quite serious. In fact, more than 2.8 million older adults are treated in emergency departments annually because of a fall and more than 800,000 hospitalizations result. The impact is significant. Every 19 minutes, an older adult dies from a fall or related complications.
RISK FACTORS OF FALLING
MUSCLE WEAKNESS, BALANCE, AND GAIT PROBLEMS: As we age, most of us lose some strength, coordination, flexibility, and balance. Decreased activity levels are the biggest reason for these problems and can lead to a fall.
VISION: In the aging eye, less light reaches the retina which makes it harder to see tripping hazards such as contrasting edges and obstacles.
MEDICATION USE: Some prescription and over-the-counter medications have side effects or interactions which can cause dizziness, sleepiness, or dehydration and can increase the risk of falling.
ENVIRONMENT: Most older adults have lived in their homes for a long time and may not be aware of simple modifications that can keep their environment safe as they age.
CHRONIC CONDITIONS: More than 90% of older adults have at least one chronic condition like vertigo, diabetes, heart disease, or arthritis. Often these increase the risk of falling because they result in lost function, inactivity, depression, pain, or use of multiple medications.
FAR REACHING EFFECTS OF COVID-19
Even if you have not contracted the COVID-19 virus, it is likely your normal daily routine has been disrupted. Gym closures, social distancing behaviors, and changes in how you run your errands may have decreased your activity level and consequentially your strength and balance. If you are suffering from the effects of the virus, it can be difficult to increase your activity level without help. There are still many safe ways to exercise and improve your strength while maintaining CDC guidelines. Physical therapy can be the traditional model of in person care or virtually with the assistance of telehealth. Telehealth allows us to connect via webcam to exercise virtually and evaluate safety obstacles in the home from a safe distance. And yes – it is covered by most insurances!
WHAT CAN I DO?
Physical therapists can help prevent and reduce the risk of falls through targeted evaluation and identification of your individual needs. Together with the patient, physical therapists can develop a plan to improve strength and balance while addressing safety hazards around the house such as rugs or long electrical cords. Why wait? Call today to set up your first session with a therapist!
About the authors:
Kristin Czuba, physical therapist with Rock Valley Physical Therapy, is a Geriatric Clinical Specialist and Certified Exercise Expert for the Aging Adult. She is also a certified LSVT BIG Provider. This is a program designed for individuals with Parkinsons Disease to reduce the associated symptoms and improve function on a daily visit. Her passion is working with elderly individuals, reducing fall risk, and preventing injury. You can reach her at our Moline ORA location at 309-797-0866.
Kristin Kincaide, physical therapist with Rock Valley Physical Therapy, is a vestibular therapist and is also a certified LSVT BIG Provider. She enjoys helping people of all ages suffering with dizziness and imbalance maintain their independence and return to what they love doing – safely. You can reach her out our Avenue of the Cities location in Moline at 309-743-0106.
https://www.ncoa.org/healthy-aging/falls-prevention/preventing-falls-tips-for-older-adults-and-caregivers/take-control-of-your-health-6-steps-to-prevent-a-fall/ – link to form of 6 steps to take to reduce a fall
https://www.ncoa.org/healthy-aging/falls-prevention/falls-prevention-awareness-day/general-resources/infographics-handouts/ – multiple links to fall prevention/awareness handouts