Falling is a major concern among older adults and with good reason; more than one third of older adults will fall and the chance of falling will continue to increase with age. Falls are the leading cause of injury-related deaths and the most common cause of non-fatal injuries and hospitalization due to trauma. Every hour someone dies and 183 go to the ER for fall-related injuries. More than 95% of hip fractures are caused by falls.
With that said, mostly all of you know of or are an older adult who has fallen and sustained injuries (hopefully minor). This warrants the need for some concrete, evidence- based information on falls and how to avoid them. The risk factors for falling include: weakness, arthritis, history of prior falls, impaired functioning with activities of daily living, walking impairments, depression, balance problems, cognitive impairments, the use of a walking aid (cane, crutches, walker, etc.), age over 80, vision problems, medications, neurologic deficits and cardiovascular deficits. This is an extensive list of risk factors and, commonly, many older adults have numerous risk factors. There is a cumulative effect, too, meaning the more risk factors you have, the higher your risk for falling.
If you are at an increased risk for falling, you can seek treatment. Insurance does cover this! Exercise programs specifically aimed at reducing falls help by addressing most of the risk factors mentioned above. The most successful exercise programs will include strengthening (especially of the legs, trunk and postural muscles), cardiovascular training, dynamic balance training, and pain management. They also must be simple and affordable enough for people to maintain on a long-term, regular basis.
Two less conventional forms of exercise that are beneficial in addressing fall risks are Tai Chi and yoga. The popularity of both of these has been on the rise and many stick with them because they are so enjoyable. They emphasize balance, weight shifting, strength, coordination and postural training. It would be a great way to challenge conventional exercisers as well as a great starting point for the less active population as well.
Fear of falling is a whole other issue that is quite serious and limiting for aging adults. Fear develops from having prior falls, feeling unsteady or having fair or poor perceived general health. This fear, along with actual fall risk, can be assessed with specialized tests and measurement tools performed by physical therapists. It just might ease your fears to learn that you have a low fall risk, or it might alert you to begin addressing your well-justified fears right away.
I think it is in our nature to put concerns like these in the back of our minds to deal with some other time. With major injuries including fractures and death, it would serve you well to learn preventative strategies now. Otherwise, I just might be treating you next fall.
At Conshohocken Physical Therapy, our mission is to make a positive impact, both personally and therapeutically, on every person who enters our office. We will improve the quality of your life with a friendly, evidence-based and innovative approach.
You will experience pain relief, improved motion and a greater quality of life. You will be treated by a Doctor of Physical Therapy who has the most specialized training to help you get back in motion. You will get direct attention from your Physical Therapist for at least 30 minutes during every visit.
Learn more about Conshohocken Physical Therapy by visiting us online at www.conshypt.com.