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Health Guide Articles

Most recent posting below. See other articles in the column to the right.

Ten Tips for Preventing Falls

Ten Tips for Preventing Falls

By: Paul G. Vidal, DPT

Owner, Specialized Physical Therapy, LLC

 

Background

 

In the United States, more than one third of adults 65 years of age and older will fall each

year1,2. Most falls occur in the home. As an individual gets older they are more likely to

fall because of age-related physical changes and medical conditions1,2. People 75 and

older who fall 4 to 5 times are more likely to be admitted to a long-term care facility.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), falls are the leading cause of injury

deaths in older adults1. In fact, falls are the most common cause of nonfatal injuries and

hospital admissions for trauma. Most fractures, including hip fractures, are caused by

falls. In 2000, the total direct cost of all fall injuries for people 65 and older exceeded

$19 billion1. Total costs are expected to reach $55 billion by 20201. According to

healthcare professionals, preventing falls and maintaining older adults as valuable

members of their communities is becoming a national priority3.

 

Risk Factors Associated With Falling

 

What makes a person at risk for falling? Risks for falling can be separated into three

categories: 1) intrinsic risks, 2) extrinsic risks, 3) environmental risks3. Intrinsic risks

relate to the individual, such as their medical history. Patients with acute illnesses,

neurological conditions, or other medical problems can be at risk for falling. Extrinsic

factors are those that are imposed upon the individual. The effect of multiple

medications (i.e.: poly pharmacy) is the most common example. Taking four or more

prescription medications is associated with an increased falls risk. Environmental risks

include factors such as stairs without railings, poor lighting in a room, or loose rugs. A

person’s risk for falling increases when multiple factors are present.

How to Prevent Falls and Fall-Related Injury2,4

 

1. Make an appointment with your doctor. Tell your doctor any problems you may

be having with your balance or any other symptoms that have been bothering you.

Many conditions can cause problems with balance. Your doctor can examine you

to determine the cause of these symptoms or refer you to a specialist for further

examination. You can review all the prescription and over-the-counter

medications you take.

 

2. Keep physically active. Activities such as walking, water exercise, or tai chi can

be part of your fall-prevention program. Maintaining and improving strength,

balance, coordination, and flexibility are essential for proper balance. Always

consult with your doctor first before beginning any exercise routine. Many times,

your doctor will refer you to a physical therapist to perform a comprehensive

physical examination and to guide you through an exercise program based on

your specific needs. A physical therapist can help determine if you need an

assistive device like a cane or walker to help prevent you from falling.

Since most falls occur in the home the following tips can be followed to make your

home safe:

 

3. Make sure to have good lighting in your home. Good lighting will help you avoid

tripping over objects that are difficult to see. Put night lights in your bedroom,

bathroom, hallways, and stairs. This is helpful for when you need to get up in the

middle of the night.

 

4. When you get up from bed, sit on the edge of the bed for a few minutes to make

sure you are not dizzy.

 

5. In your bathroom put handrails for bath, shower, and toilet use and place nonskid

mats in your bathtub or shower.

 

6. Have rails on both sides of your stairs for support.

 

7. Remove clutter from walkways. This includes boxes, newspapers, electrical

cords, and phone cords.

 

8. Make sure rugs are firmly fastened to the floor or have a nonskid backing.

 

9. In the kitchen, make sure items are within reach. Don’t store items too high or

too low. In this manner, you will not have to use a stepladder or stool to reach for

things or have to bend down too far.

 

10. Wear shoes with firm nonskid soles. Avoid wearing loose-fitting slippers that

may cause you to trip.

 

References:

1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Falls Among Older Adults: An

Overview. Available at:

www.cdc.gov/HomeandRecreationalSafety/Falls/adultfalls.html. Accessed:

August 8, 2009.

2. Fall Prevention: 6 Ways to Reduce Your Falling Risk. Available at:

www.mayoclinic.com/health/fall-prevention. Accessed: August 8, 2009.

3. Brewer K, Ciolek C, Delaune M, et al. Fall In Community Dwelling Older

Adults: Introduction to the Problem. PT Magazine. 2007; 15(7): 38-46.

4. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons: Reduce Your Risk of Falling.

Available at: www.orthoinfo.aaos.org. Accessed: August 8, 2009

This article was written courtesy of Dr. Paul G. Vidal, DPT, owner, Specialized

Physical Therapy, LLC, located in Princeton, NJ. For more information, please call

609-497-1000 or visit: www.specializedphysicaltherapy.com

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