Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Fighting Falls: Changing Risk Factors

Let’s talk about falls. The World Health Organization defines falls as “an event which results in a person coming to rest inadvertently on the ground or floor or other lower level.”1 With that definition in mind, did you know that 1 in 4 adults in the United States will sustain a fall in a given year?2 In 2010, the United States spent approximately 111 billion US dollars addressing fall-related deaths, treatments, or hospitalizations in emergency departments.3 While falls can occur at any age, certain factors can increase your risk of falling. Some of you reading this may have never experienced a life-altering fall. Some of you have. But I am sure that everyone reading this knows an adult who has fallen.

As I mentioned before, there are factors that will increase your risk of falling. Some of those, like sex and age, cannot be changed. Other factors, like the home environment and activity level, can be changed. So if you are concerned about falling, or you are concerned of a loved one falling, read on to learn 4 things that can be done today to reduce the risk of falling.

Change your Home Environment

The first and easiest thing you can do is “fall-proof” your home.
  • Have clear pathways to prevent tripping over loose items or electric cords on the ground.
  • Mark thresholds and steps with a contrasting color so you can see where the floor level changes.
  • Get rid of rugs or secure them.
  • Wear shoes in the house (instead of slippers/socks).
  • Put non-slip mats in the shower/bathroom.  
  • Make use of night lights, especially if you make trips to the bathroom at night and need to navigate a dark room or hallway.
  • If you can, install grab bars in the bathroom

Get Active

Enroll in an exercise program that is right for you. Muscle weakness and poor posture increase your fall risk. While changes to your muscles, bones, and joints are a normal part of ageing, falling is NOT. Regular physical activity will help combat these changes associated with ageing. If you do not know where to start, start right here with Mashpee Fitness and Barnstable Fitness. We have plenty of virtual classes that have been carefully catered by our excellent trainers. Special mentions: Tai Chi with Ally, Chair Exercises with Erin, Burdenko Balance with Eric, Chair Stretch with Craig, and Flexibility/Mobility with Jami. Local senior centers also tend to offer balance and exercise classes.
  • Tai Chi classes are excellent for posture, balance, and joint mobility
  • Yoga or a stretching class can improve flexibility and balance
  • Strength/weight training will increase bone density and combat osteoporosis
  • Specific Balance classes and programs will lead you into balance exercises coupled with falls-related education and falls prevention tips.

Review your Medications

Polypharmacy is when you take multiple medications, usually 4 or more, and this can increase your risk of falling. TAKE YOUR MEDICATION AS PRESCRIBED but go over your medications, including over-the-counter and supplements, with your pharmacist or your primary care doctor if you are experiencing side-effects related to dizziness/light headedness. Ask your healthcare provider if all your medications are necessary and up-to-date.

Schedule an Eye Exam

Get your eyes checked regularly. The older we get, the more our bodies rely on its visual input to make balance-related decisions. Our bodies rely on information from our eyes for visual acuity, peripheral vision, depth perception, determine incoming/moving objects, and even perceiving changes to surface textures.

Blog post by Damaris Marques PT DPT.

About Damaris Marques PT DPT
Damaris ("Dee") joined Cape Cod Rehab in August 2017 after receiving both her Doctor of Physical Therapy and Bachelor of Science from Springfield College. She is certified in Part I and Part II of the Burdenko Method and believes in a patient-therapist partnership where both are working together to meet the patient's functional goals. Dee is bilingual (English and Brazilian Portuguese) and lists crocheting as a hobby along with singing and a little dancing when no one is looking!

3. Verma SK, Willetts JL, Corns HL, Marucci-Wellman HR, Lombardi DA, Courtney TK. Falls and Fall-Related Injuries among Community-Dwelling Adults in the United States. PLoS One. 2016;11(3):e0150939. Published 2016 Mar 15. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0150939

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