Did you know that September is Fall Prevention Month?
If you are reading this article, I am quite sure that you are afraid for someone you love, or you are fearful of falling yourself. You have probably experienced a fall in your lifetime, or you know someone who has fallen and caused injury or even death because of a fall. Most patients who report a fall simply fall in their own house or yard or in that of a friend or family’s. Now what if I told you that there are simple things that you can do to prevent a fall? Keep reading and we will share our top 10 tips for fall prevention!
More than one in four Americans age 65+ fall each year. One in five falls result in a serious injury such as a broken bone or head injury and every 11 seconds an older adult is treated in the emergency room for a fall. Every 19 minutes an older adult will die from a fall (cdc-adult falls). Now if these statistics are not enough to convince you of the importance of fall prevention, let us look at the cost of falls! The results of a study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society found that the annual cost of falls in the U.S. was well over 50 billion dollars in 2015!
Unless we step our game up with risk assessment and fall prevention programs these numbers are expected to rise! The number of people who are 65+ will continue to grow and they want to remain active for longer. We want this population to remain safe and healthy!
Physical Therapy is one of the best places to start! Your Physical Therapist (PT) can provide a balance assessment and perform other screening measures to determine if you are at risk and determine how Physical Therapy can help you. An individualized plan will be developed to address these risk factors and educate you on how you can prevent falls in your home and in your community. Physical Therapists are movement specialists with a deep understanding of the biomechanics and arthrokinematics of the human movement system and how disease and other body systems can affect it. We provide exercise prescription that includes flexibility, mobility, agility, strength, and endurance, all that can help improve balance!
Here are our top 10 tips to help you and your loved ones prevent a fall from happening:
10 Simple Tips from our Physical Therapists:
1. Clear your path.
Clear all walkways inside and outside of your home. Remove clutter or excess items on the floor (throw rugs, pet toys, shoes, garden hoses, etc.) that are potential trip hazards. This can make your mind feel at ease too!
2. Be mindful.
When walking, remember to keep eyes alert to watch your own feet and your path. Be aware of potential hazards, curbs, potholes, rocks, spills, puddles, even your pet etc. If you cannot walk and talk with a friend and keep your pace, you need a PT!
3. Wear supportive, comfortable shoes with good sole traction.
We recommend checking out a local athletic shoe store such as Milestone Running or Road Runner Sports who have shoe experts who can fit you for a good walking/running/everyday shoe. If you wear home slippers, make sure they also have good traction and fit you right. Your PT can also recommend the best footwear for you and what to avoid!
4. Keep moving!
Exercise leads to stronger muscles and bones and builds the neural network needed to prevent a fall from happening. Our lifestyle looks like movement in all 3 planes (forward and backwards, side-to-side, and rotating). It’s dynamic! We can help you create a functional home exercise plan that helps you do the everyday things with more ease.
5. Take a Yoga or Tai Chi class and implement some strength training to your weekly movement.
Whether the class is virtual online or in person outdoors, yoga and tai chi offer a lot of balance training and increase muscle endurance that improves postural stability. They integrate multi-planar movement mentioned above and are well known for their mental health benefits such as decreased anxiety. Through both aging and de-conditioning, muscle mass is lost. Physical inactivity contributes to Osteoporosis, a leading risk factor for fractures from a fall. Pick up a set of dumbbells or resistance bands at your local sports store and tap into strength training at home. If you need help on where to start, book with our Physical Therapist for an hour of individualized care. You will leave feeling educated with a home exercise program sent to your email!
6. Light up your space!
Our ability to see with our eyes is a key factor in maintaining balance. At night that sense is removed. A fun suggestion that even adds a little ambiance: Try battery lit candles that are on a timer to light your walkways. Expand into other areas of your home: nightlights in your bathrooms, turn light switches on before going up or down any stairs, install motion sensory light outside
7. Modify your home with assistive devices and safety bars
Handrails by stairs, toilet support rail, grab bars in the shower, non-slip mats in your bathroom/shower, shower seat are just a few ideas!
8. Sync your smart devices to set up a protocol in case of emergency or just keep your phone with you just in case!
For example, if you own an Apple Watch, Emergency SOS feature can detect a hard fall. If you press and hold one button, it will call emergency services and notify your emergency contacts.
9, Schedule with your healthcare professionals on a regular basis.
Make an appointment with your eye doctor to make sure your eye-wear is up to date and you have your best vision. Review all medications with your healthcare provider to be sure no side-effects of medications are making you drowsy or dizzy which can both lead to loss of balance.
10. Get educated about your body + schedule a Wellness Check-up or Balance Screen with your Physical Therapist!
Your body is unique. The more you can learn about specific areas of muscle weakness, bilateral differences like right or left side compensations, the better. A few key factors can influence your current ability to balance and prevent a fall. Learn what could be putting you or your loved ones at risk and minimize them one by one! For more information see this related article Choose PT! about Physical Therapists, fall prevention and what to expect!
Thank you for reading! If you or a loved one has experienced a fall or is fearful of falling, please share this article! Remember, after you fall once your chance of a second fall doubles! Let’s get strong and work together to prevent a fall instead of treating the injury from the fall! Please call or fill out our contact form if you are interested in a 10 minute balance screen or to schedule an appointment with one of our Physical Therapists!