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HELP! I’ve fallen!

September 20, 2017

It’s that time of year again when the air turns crisp and the leaves change: fall is in the air.

 

The beginning of fall also marks the 10th anniversary of the National Council on Aging’s Fall Prevention Awareness Day (officially recognized on September 22, 2017).

 

Most of us know someone who has fallen, whether it resulted in minor bruising or something more severe like a fracture.

 

Facts from the National Council of Aging (NCOA):

  • ¼ of Americans 65+ fall each year.

  • Every 11 seconds, an older adult is seen in an emergency department for a fall-related injury.

  • Every 19 minutes, and older adult dies from a fall.

  • Falls are the leading cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries for older Americans.

  • Falls and fear of falling impacts independence and quality of life.

 

The facts are grim but there’s good news: falling is not an inevitable part of aging and can be prevented!

 

 

That is where Haven Physical Therapy can help.  So, you’re wondering, “How can physical therapy help prevent falls?”

 

First, a look at the most common risk factors for falling:

  • Previous falls

  • Balance issues

  • Muscle weakness

  • Difficulty with walking

  • Vision problems

  • Taking more than 4 medications or psychoactive medications

 

Do you or someone you know fall into one or more of those categories?

 

 

Why do falls occur?

 

In order to keep ourselves from succumbing to gravity, the body relies on 3 different sensory systems:

  • touch/proprioception (how we know where we are in space)

  • vision

  • vestibular system (inner ear motion sensors)  

 

When one or more of these systems is not working correctly, the likelihood of falls increases.

 

Falling is also influenced by muscle strength, most notably in the legs. Weakness in these muscles affects how we walk, navigate stairs, the ability to step over objects, etc..  

 

The leg muscles must be strong in order to lift the leg up to avoid tripping over objects, catching the toe on a stair/curb or during walking, and other scenarios that lead to falling.

 

 

Haven Physical Therapy can help

 

The Physical Therapist will perform an evaluation and special tests such as balance tests, muscle strength tests, and sensory tests. Taking all results into consideration, they will develop a plan of care, goals that are patient specific and implement a home exercise program.

 

Activities may include:

  • Resistance exercises

  • Balance training

  • Visual tracking exercises

  • Manual therapy to reduce stiffness/pain

  • Inner ear retraining

 

Fall prevention at home:

 

So you're participating in physical therapy and now that you can stand on one leg for 5 minutes and have the quads of Arnold Schwarzenegger, you’re safe from falling….. Think again! There still may be some obstacles at home that may increase the likelihood of a fall.

 

Tips to keep the home safe:

  • Remove all small rugs - they are a MAJOR tripping hazard!

  • Be aware of the location of your pets to avoid tripping over them.

  • Install night lights in pathways you make take during the night.

  • Install grab bars by the toilet and in the shower.

  • Place the most used items on a lower shelf or cabinet for easy access.

  • Remove clutter from the floor and keep wires out of pathways

  • Add railings to stairs, inside and outside, for extra support

  • Clean up spills as soon as they occur

  • Keep all assistive devices (walker, canes) close and use as directed

It is recommended that seniors and loved ones perform a home safety check at least once a year and to invest in basic home safety modifications (grab bars, railings on stairs, etc.).  

 

So if you or your loved one is ready to take back their independence and face their fears, the dedicated and knowledgeable team at Haven Physical Therapy is here to help.

 

 

 

 

 

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