Whether your mom has fallen, your dad isn’t as steady on his feet, or you have had a recent slip, trip, or spill, falls happen. And they can be devestating.
Why is Fall Prevention Important?
The fact is that one in four Americans over 65 will fall this year. And if you fall once, you are twice as likely to fall again.
Falls in older adults and the elderly are known to lead to emergency room visits for minor injuries (like scrapes and bruises), long-term hospitalization for severe injuries (like hip fractures or loss of consciousness), and even accidental deaths from falls are common.
The long-term impacts of a fall for an older adult can be costly, and not just financially. An older adult who falls is at risk for serious injury or death. When older adults fall, they have a 1 in 4 chance of fracturing a hip, which is going to cost you your mobility, your independence, and potentially your life (What is the life expectancy after a hip fracture?). Even if you don’t break a hip, getting up off the ground may be difficult, you may suffer from a head injury, and some seniors will not live through their fall. When you or a loved one have fallen, it is too late to stop that fall, but you can prevent future falls.
Falls risk is common problem, but to solve falls prevention will require an uncommon solution to be the standard of care for all older adults.
What is a Falls Prevention Program?
If we want to prevent the elderly from falling, we need to develop individualized falls prevention programs. But how do we set up a falls prevention program? In order to prevent falls in the elderly and older adults, we need to take a comprehensive approach to care. That includes reporting falls and preventing falls.
With detection, we are reacting to a fall. Because of the risk of serious injury or death, it is important that loved ones or first responders can be made aware of a fall.
For that reason, consideration of a wearable falls detection device that can alert family or first responders should be a consideration for all seniors.
Some falls detection devices can even report to your physician, which is important because less than half of falls are reported. If you have had a fall, you need to talk with your physician.
Prevention not reaction, starts with understanding the risk factors that contribute to falling. There is no easy quick fix solution to preventing older adults from falling. There is no magic balance pill, and the fountain of youth isn’t available here in Oklahoma City, but ignoring this serious problem isn’t going to make things any better.
To prevent future falls we need to assess your deficits and actively respond to them.
Most falls prevention programs have a targeted focus on the physical well-being of the participants. This makes perfect sense. When you fall, you are most likely to be standing or walking. In order to stand, your muscles and bones must be able to support your weight. If you are too weak to hold yourself up, balance is going to be a secondary consideration in preventing falls.
But a comprehensive falls prevention program cannot stop at assessing your physical fitness. A comprehensive program to prevent falls in the elderly will assess the functionality of your balance system, including:
1) Visual System - Both how well you see (i.e., visual acuity) and how your brain interprets the information from your eyes.
2) Vestibular System - Your inner ear processes movement across 6 dynamic planes.
3) Somatosensory System - How your body feels itself in space and how your feet feel the ground.
A solid falls prevention assessment may also consider your pelvic health, and your unique environmental risk factors that contribute to an increased risk of falling. It is also going to take the information from your assessment to establish a unique program targeting your major concerns and risk factors first and working backward to alleviate the more minor risks as your balance improves and your falls risk decreases.
Activity is required to treat any deficits a physical therapist finds during your falls prevention assessment. A comprehensive plan will include more than just leg strength and knee flexibility, it will take experts focused on falls prevention treating the orthopedic, the pelvic floor, the neurologic, and the sensory challenges that often come with aging.
In order to reduce your risk of falling and improve your balance, we have to challenge the 3 sensory systems that make up your Balance System:
1) Visual System - We will make sure that you are able to respond to the input from your eyes. Do you get anxious about falls when lots of people are around? Do you have difficulty in low light settings or the dark? Does movement of cars cause you discomfort? If so, these are areas that we will challenge in a safe environment so that you are prepared.
2) Vestibular System - We will make sure that you are able to respond to the input your inner ear receives when you move. Do you get anxious about falls when the ground is unstable (like over gravel)? Do you have difficulty recovering if you lose your balance? Do stairs cause you discomfort? If so, these are areas that we will challenge in a safe environment so that you are prepared.
3) Somatosensory System - We will make sure that you are able to respond to the input of your body feeling itself in space. Do you get anxious because you have pain or numbness in your feet? Do you have difficulty recovering if someone brushes against you? If so, these are areas that we will challenge in a safe environment so that you are prepared. Physical therapy cannot sure your neuropathy, but we can help you safely navigate your world.
At FYZICAL, our falls prevention programs focus on reducing falls in the elderly and older adults, because as we age, we are at a greater risk for falling and we are at a greater risk for serious injury or death from a fall.
-FYZICAL Therapy & Balance Centers of Oklahoma City
FYZICAL Therapy & Balance Centers have developed a world-class balance rehabilitation program that can be tailored to each patient’s individual needs. As the only Level III balance rehabilitation program in Oklahoma City, the physical therapy provided for patients at FYZICAL Oklahoma City cannot be matched. Our Physical Therapists will conduct an evaluation using state of the art balance assessment technology and provide safety and security throughout your treatment with our safety overhead system. If you are unsure about your balance, or you want to see the FYZICAL Difference for yourself, schedule a free consultation today.