Falls Prevention: Helpful Tips to Stay Independent
By Rachel Maher, PT, DPT
Happy Fall Prevention Awareness Day! September 23, 2019 is annual Fall Prevention Day - an important day to promote awareness of an issue that affects so many. An estimated 20%-30% of older adults fall each year, which is the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries and fifth-leading cause of death among aging adults in America.
A fall is defined as “any event that leads to an unplanned, unexpected contact with a supporting surface (floor, chair, bed, etc.).” Think, over the last few years, have you fallen? What were the circumstances upon which the fall happened?
The important thing to remember is that falling is NOT a normal part of aging and research shows 60-75% of falls CAN BE PREVENTED! But how?
Modifiable risk factors, or factors you can change, include physical inactivity, poor balance, leg weakness, improper use of a cane or walker, fear of falling, low blood pressure, medical concerns, and social isolation. External factors you can change to prevent falls include excessive stairs or tripping hazards, unsecured throw rugs, lack of grab bars in the bathroom, low chairs and tables, poor lighting, and narrow doorways and hallways.
Non-modifiable risk factors, or factors you cannot change, for a fall include age > 65, history of falls, female gender, taking more than 4 medications, poor vision, poor sensation, and memory loss.
If any of these apply to you, you may be thinking well what do I do now? Here are some tips.
• Be more active! Find something you enjoy and do it with a friend.
• Make your home safer by eliminating tripping hazards.
• Optimize vision and footwear.
• Have medication reviewed by a pharmacist or physician.
• Use your walker or cane regularly and properly (if you were prescribed one by a medical professional).
• Go to a community class or physical therapy for strengthening, balance improvement, and decreased fear of falling.
Check out this link here to take a short quiz and assess your risk of falls!
If you find many of these risk factors pertain to you, seek help from a healthcare professional. Physical Therapists are movement specialists and are well trained in preventing falls.
Rachel Maher is a Doctor of Physical Therapy at Excel Physical Therapy in Society Hill Philadelphia. As a graduate of Drexel University in 2019, Rachel has spent a lot of time in Philly and loved going to school and now working here. She has a clinical interest in the treatment of older adults and has experience in the outpatient orthopedic setting treating patients of all ages, as well as in inpatient hospitals during school. She loves working with her patients to identify and work towards meaningful goals to improve daily function and promote lifelong health and wellness for all.