By: Jennifer Jacobson, PTA
Experiencing a fall can be a disturbing event and is a serious health risk for older adults. Over 1 in 4 Americans over the age of 65+ fall each year and account for over 3 million ER visits.
There are four components in the “Vicious Cycle of Falls” including: initial fall, fear of falling,and inactivity, leading to muscle weakening and loss of range of motion. This cycle increases an individual’s fall risk if fall prevention strategies are not implemented.
What can we do to help prevent falls from occurring in older adults?
For patients 65+, it is recommended for all adults to be screened annually for balance
impairment and fall risk. Individuals enrolled in Medicare can have this completed during an annual wellness visit.
Have your doctor or pharmacist review all the medications you take, even over-the-counter ones. As you get older, the way medicines work in your body can change. Some medications, or combinations of medicines can make you sleepy or dizzy and can cause you to fall.
Have Your Vision Checked
Poor vision can increase your chances of falling. Have your vision checked by an eye doctor annually. Wearing the correct prescription lenses will ensure you can see clearly. If your vision is poor, your chances of falling are up to 50% higher.
Make Your Living Environment Safe
About half of all falls happen at home. These tips may help to make your home as safe as possible:
Remove tripping hazards, such as loose rugs and clutter.
Add handrails to stairs and bathrooms.
Use non-slip mats in the bathtub and shower.
Add lighting in dark areas, especially on stairs.
Wear Supportive Shoes
Choose shoes that fit snugly with non-slip soles and a flat or low, wide heel. Avoid slippers, flip flops, backless shoes, high heels and shoes with smooth leather.
Exercise will help improve your balance and strength, make your legs stronger and reduce your chances of falling. Exercise also has many other benefits including boosting mood, sharpening focus, reducing stress and improving sleep. It can also help you feel better and be more confident! Multi-component physical activity is best for adults 65+ which includes a combination of balance training, aerobic activity and strengthening exercises. Examples of this kind of exercise are Tai-Chi or Yoga.
Be evaluated by a physical therapist. A PT can help design an individualized plan for your fall prevention needs, provide you with multi-component exercises and balance training, as well as recommend appropriate community programs.