Falls have become a significant concern, especially with the aging population. Each year, one in four Americans over the age of 65 experiences a fall. It is the leading cause of fatal injury, and the most common cause of nonfatal trauma. Injuries resulting from falls can have a profound impact on the aging population. The physical and financial implications of falls are devastating, leaving our older people unable to live independently and significantly decreasing life expectancy.
Taking an active role in prevention and self-care, through lifestyle adjustment and regular exercise, can help seniors help themselves. Participating in programs that help with balance also reduces risk factors.
Those who already live an active lifestyle might consider integrating the following activities into their weekly routine:
- Tai Chi
- Lightweight training
- Core exercises (abs, lower back, etc.)
These are all activities that will strengthen muscles necessary for balance and mobility and can be modified to fit the capability of the individual. For those who require a lower impact or modified workout, consider chair yoga, pool aerobics, or stationary cardio equipment such as a recumbent bicycle.
For those who are at a higher risk for falls, physicians might recommend a professional evaluation for therapy programs like those offered in Shem Creek Health Center at South Bay.
Physical therapists (PT) are trained in accurately assessing balance issues to determine the origin of the impairment, whether it is related to muscle weakness, vestibular dysfunction, or somatosensory deficits. From there, the PT can tailor patient-specific interventions to achieve the best outcomes and reduce falls.
Occupational therapists (OT) specialize in assessing environmental hazards. Along with making the immediate environment safer, the OT can design programs to improve upper body strength that will assist with better flexibility, mobility, and range of motion. OTs can also train you on making everyday activities easier and safer.
Speech therapists are trained to assess cognitive levels and to help the patient with memory loss and thinking problems. Making safe decisions and being able to identify risks accurately will all help to further decrease falls in the senior population.
Curious about what this means for you? Ask yourself the following questions:
- Do you take more than 1 or 2 medications? If so, has your doctor reviewed them to check for possible interactions or side effects?
- When you scan your home, do you see throw rugs or furniture that blocks or partially blocks a walkway, pets, or any other potential trip hazard?
- Are you partial to footwear that does not provide support, such as sandals?
- Do you consume alcohol?
- Have you been diagnosed with any heart issues that may cause blacking out or dizziness?
- If you use a cane or walker, is it always within reach?
- Think about your overall health. Have you had any recent illnesses that have left you weaker?
- Do you have difficulty staying hydrated?
- Do you have vision deficits? Is your eyeglass prescription up to date? Do you have glaucoma or any other visual limitations?
- Have you noticed any hearing loss?
- Have you noticed increased forgetfulness or confusion?
If you answered "yes" to any of the above questions, you are most likely at a higher risk for falls. Given the profound negative impact that falls can have on the aging population, awareness, and encouragement for seniors will help prevent these incidents.
Strengthening and balance exercises, in addition to lifestyle adjustments, have the greatest positive outcome in fall prevention. Programs are readily available through multiple exercise, therapy, and healthcare providers, such as South Bay at Mount Pleasant and Shem Creek Health Center in South Bay.
It's never too early to incorporate lifestyle modifications and exercise programs to help reduce your risk for a fall. Remember:
"An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." – Benjamin Franklin
For more information about the therapy services available at Shem Creek Health Center in South Bay, or our wellness programs at South Bay at Mount Pleasant, call 943.936.2800 or visit our website southbayatmountpleasant.com.