Falls are sadly the leading cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries for older Americans. For older adults in the U.S., fall death rates went up by 30% from 2007-2016, and researchers predict there will be seven deadly falls every hour by 2030.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that one in four Americans 65 and older experience a fall each year, but less than half actually report the incident to a doctor. One in every five falls results in a serious injury, such as a broken bone or head injury, leading to more than three million emergency room visits and 800,000 hospitalizations each year.
Not only do falls threaten seniors’ safety and independence, but they take a serious economic toll, which is growing at a rapid rate. Additionally, after a fall, a person may scale back their activities out of fear, which increases their risk of falling again.
“Falls present a real public health problem among older adults, but so often they’re caused by things that are easy to identify and fix,” said Cindy Rankin, Regional Director of Professional Therapy Services.
While many believe falling is just a part of getting older, there are many preventative measures that can be taken.
Tips for Preventing Falls
What are some common things you can do to prevent falls?
- Speak to your doctor or pharmacist to evaluate risk and review medications.
- Have your eyes checked annually.
- Make an appointment with a physical therapist to establish a strength and balance program.
- Remove objects that you can trip over. For example, items like throw rugs or phone cords.
- Add nonslip mats to bathtubs/showers.
- Ensure good lighting.
- Keep necessary items within easy reach.
- Install grab bars and railings for additional support.
- Move coffee tables, magazine racks, and plant stands from high-traffic areas.
- Wear properly fitting, sturdy, flat shoes with nonskid soles.
Caregivers, what are things you can look out for to get a better sense of whether your loved one may be at risk of a fall?
Are they having trouble getting up and down from their chair?
Are they using a walker, cane, or other equipment? Does that piece of equipment look to be a good fit? Should it be adjusted, or should they be using a different device altogether?
Are they slowing down when they are taking a step on a threshold or in between different floor surfaces?
Are they having more difficulty with walking and carrying objects at the same time?
Are they having trouble lifting packages off the floor or losing their balance reaching to the cabinet?
Engaging in Physical Therapy Boosts Confidence And Puts Fun Back Into Your Mobility
A lack of activity can lead to a loss of muscle mass, flexibility, and range of motion–all of which can drastically affect your ability to stay independent. Regular exercise and activity can restore and maintain strength, flexibility, and balance, improving your quality of life!
“We look at things like walking speed, posture, ability to move from sit to stand or on and off the floor, sensation, strength, and range of motion. We observe movement patterns and improve them in order to increase the ability to react to a loss of balance,” explains PTS Doctor of Physical Therapy, Maureen Sylvester.
Physical therapy helps patients get their confidence and groove back and allows them to have fun with their mobility again.
“A patient’s world gets bigger when they complete physical therapy. There’s joy in watching patients reclaim their confidence and better understand what their limitations may be so that they can participate in activities they would’ve avoided due to fear of falls,” says Sylvester.
Following an initial evaluation, our therapists can create a personalized fall prevention program tailored to your environment and safety needs.
Contact PTS to speak with a member of our team about how we can help you or a loved one prevent a fall or recover after one occurs. We offer both outpatient and at home physical therapy, both of which could be beneficial to minimize your fall risk. Call 309-231-0676 or send us a message here.