Many people think that falling is expected as we age. For many older adults, an unexpected fall can result in a serious and costly injury. The truth is that most falls can be prevented. Older adults can improve strength and balance, therefore decreasing the risk of falling. Taking action to address the risk of falling is a vital step to staying healthy and independent as long as possible.
Why is the prevention of falls so important?
- Falls are common and are the leading cause of fatal AND non-fatal injuries in older Americans. 1 in 4 older adults fall each year.
- Falls can cause serious injuries such as broken bones and head injuries.
- Experiencing a fall can lead to a fear of falling. A fear of falling can lead to limited activity, which can result in further physical decline, depression, decreased attendance of social events, and feelings of helplessness.
What are the Risk Factors?
- Physical: These include changes in your body that can increase your risk for a fall.
- Environmental: These include hazards within the home and out in the community.
- Behavioral: These include things one does or does not do that can increase the risk of a fall.
Who is at Risk?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has adapted a checklist to screen individuals who may be at risk for falls. Answering yes to 4 or more of the following statements places you at risk for falling.
- I have fallen in the past year.
- I can, or have been advised to use a cane or walker in order to get around safely.
- Sometimes I feel unsteady when I am walking.
- I steady myself by holding onto furniture when walking at home.
- I am worried about falling.
- I need to use my hands to push up with to stand up from a chair.
- I have difficulty stepping up onto a curb.
- I often have to rush to the bathroom.
- I have lost some feeling in my feet.
- I take medicine that sometimes makes me feel light-headed or more tired than usual.
- I take medicine to help me sleep or improve my mood.
- I often feel sad or depressed.
What is the Next Step?
If you have answered yes to 4 or more of the questions above, consult any concerns you may have with your physician. A physician can address any medication related issues and/or may refer you to physical therapy. Many of the screening questions listed above are things a licensed Physical Therapist / Physical Therapist Assistant can help you with. Physical Therapy can help to improve strength, flexibility, static and dynamic balance, and make sure you are using your assistive device correctly (if applicable) . In Missouri, all you need is a script from a physician. In Kansas no script is necessary. Physical Therapy will provide you with a customized home exercise program in order for you to maintain the gains made in therapy once your therapy has been completed. Physical Therapists can also provide education for simple and cost effective changes you can make at home to maximize your safety inside the household.
“Safety doesn’t happen by accident “ – Unknown
*Information from the National Council on Aging*