Falls Prevention Awareness Week is a national health campaign coinciding with the first week of Fall each year that brings awareness to one of the leading causes of injuries and hospitalizations among senior adults. Regardless of our age, anyone can have a fall; however, according to the CDC, older adults – those 65 and older – fall at a higher frequency, with more than one in four older adults experiencing falls each year. This population also experiences the most hospitalizations after a fall, with an average of 800,000 per year, and accounts for 3 million annual visits to the emergency department due to fall-related injuries.
There are minor adjustments you can make in the home to help reduce the risk of falling along with some considerations for how to reduce fall-related injuries out in the community. Learning about these minor adjustments, and also how outpatient rehab, medical equipment and in-home care can greatly reduce your risk of falls, will provide you with the knowledge and confidence to safely navigate throughout your day!
Fall Prevention in the Home
Identifying hazards in the home and making minor home alterations can reduce the risk of falling. The following checklist from the CDC provides an excellent tool on how to find and fix home hazards:
Stairs and Steps
· Always keep objects off the stairs
· Fix loose or uneven steps
· Install lighting above stairwell with a light switch at the top and bottom of stairs
· Replace any burned out light bulbs
· Make sure any carpeting is firmly attached to every step
· If steps are without carpet, attach non-slip rubber treads to the stairs
· Fix loose handrails
· Ask someone to move any furniture that may obstruct a clear walking path
· Remove throw rugs or use double-sided tape or a non-slip backing so the rugs won’t slip
· Always keep objects off the floor
· Coil or tape cords and wires next to the wall so you can’t trip over them
· Keep things you use often on the lower shelves
· If you must use a step stool, get one with a bar
· Place a lamp close to the bed where it’s easy to reach
· Put a nightlight along your walking path between the bedroom and the bathroom
· Put a non-slip rubber mat or self-stick strips on the floor of the tub or shower
· Have grab bars installed next to and inside the tub, and next to the toilet
Fall Prevention in the Community
Concordia at Cabot Director of Outpatient Therapy Jen Lesnett, DPT provided the following expert insight on how to prevent falls out in the community:
· Be aware of and knowing your own limitations will give you an advantage in the community
· Take a walker or cane with you to provide better balance and instill confidence
· Have an awareness of external factors you may come across in the community – uneven surfaces and terrains, sidewalk cracks, and potential obstacles like crowds and animals
· Actively thinking about the aforementioned will provide you with an awareness that can safely help you navigate throughout the community
Shoes and Eyewear
· Wear safe, supportive shoes that are appropriate for various weather conditions
· If you have been prescribed glasses, make sure you wear them when out in the community
· Wear sunglasses on a sunny day to help improve visibility
· It is important to understand how medications may affect you
· Medications may affect you differently in the morning, so planning an afternoon trip or vice versa may help reduce your risk of a medication-related fall
Strength, Balance and Cognition
According to Dr. Lesnett, strength training, balance exercises and cognition all play an important role in fall prevention in the home and in the community.
“Strength training helps to prevent the natural loss of lean muscle mass that comes with aging and bone density loss. It creates stability around our joints that allow us to safely bear weight, i.e. walk, stand, dance and squat.”
Dr. Lesnett continued, “A strong foundation allows for better balance. The stronger your legs and core are, the better your balance and posture will be during static and dynamic movements. If you have good static balance, you are able to keep the center of your mass over the base of your support when at rest. Those with good dynamic balance are able to keep their center of mass over the base of support while body parts are in motion. When you factor in cognition, it allows you to accomplish a dual task such as talking while walking.”
How Outpatient Therapy, In-Home Services, and Medical Equipment Can Help
Outpatient therapy, offered at Concordia at Cabot, can help those who have experienced a fall-related injury and also help those who have a high fall risk reduce that risk through exercises and programs. Dr. Lesnett explained that each individual is different and creating a unique program for their specific needs is essential.
“In an outpatient rehab setting, a physical therapist and team will determine a specific and unique program for a patient to follow that will incorporate goals of their own. An example of this could be that they want greater confidence to walk to the dining room for dinner or pick up their grandchild without feeling like they may fall over. Additionally, the program is built uniquely based on the individual’s initial evaluation.”
She continued, “At Cabot, we have a swimming pool that can be a safe and non-threatening way to improve upon balance. We also have a specialized balance system that can test and assist in retraining an individual’s balance. A welcomed recent addition to our outpatient rehab is the LSVT BIG program which helps individuals with a Parkinson’s or other neurological diagnoses improve mobility and daily life activities.”
In addition to outpatient therapy, there may be times that individuals recovering from fall-related injuries are in need of in-home care. Individuals who undergo surgery after experiencing a fall-related injury make up a good percentage of Concordia Visiting Nurses patients who are in need of in-home physical therapy. These patients are referred to home health therapy by a physician upon discharge and the frequency of the visits range depending on the severity of the injury. It is common for the patient to continue on to outpatient therapy after finishing their in-home care treatment.
Durable medical equipment such as canes, walkers, grab bars, and rails for specific rooms in the house can provide mobility support and assistance with activities of daily living. These assistive devices not only improve mobility but also significantly reduce the risks of falls. Consult with your primary physician for help with choosing the right device for you. You can also visit the Concordia Medical Equipment website to learn more about the medical equipment and in-home services they provide.
For more information on our outpatient physical therapy program at Concordia at Cabot, visit our outpatient therapy page or message us through our online contact form. For more information on how medical equipment can reduce fall risk, call Concordia Medical Equipment at 724-352-1110 to speak to customer service.
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