The risk of falling increases with age. For the older population, effective fall prevention can help reduce serious injuries, visits to the emergency department, hospitalizations, and overall functional decline. Given that 1 in 3 seniors will experience a fall each year and 40% of senior falls result in hip fractures it is important to establish a specific protocol to help prevent such events. More falls occur at home than any other location. Specifically the bathroom and stairs have the highest incidence of falls. Guidelines for the prevention of falls in older persons were published in 2001 by the American Geriatrics Society. Since then the guidelines were revised in 2010 using new clinical and research evidence. These guidelines suggest that falls can be prevented by making adjustments to your lifestyle and your home, which we will discuss today.
Reasons for Falls
The following is a list of common causes of falls: Tripping or slipping on an uneven or slippery walking surface, slow reflexes, balance problems, reduced muscle strength, poor vision, and/or taking certain medications.
Prevention of Falls - Home Modifications
Modification of the home and/or environmental factors are key to the prevention of falls. For example, keeping rooms free of clutter and removing rugs that slide and can be easily tripped over helps to reduce the risk of falls. Other important home modifications include: Having a hand rail installed on stairs, keeping all rooms well lit with good lighting, installing a raised toilet seat, and grab bars near the bath, shower, and toilets, and ensuring that a non-skid bath mat is placed in the shower or bath tub. In addition, the use of a cane or walker can help with balance and stability while walking. Ensure that rubber-soled, low-heeled footwear is worn to help prevent slipping on wet or icy surfaces.
Prevention of Falls - Exercise Programs
An exercise program that is tailored to the person's current physical abilities can also be effective in preventing falls. A qualified health professional can help implement an exercise program and more importantly monitor the person's progress. An educational component should be included in the exercise program so that the person at risk of falling understands the importance and benefits of the exercises they are performing. Exercise programs should include the following components: Balance, gait, strength training, flexibility, and endurance training. The exercise program should include regular review, progression, and adjustments by the health professional.
The combination of home modifications and exercise programs can help in the prevention of falls in older individuals. Always consult with a qualified health professional prior to starting any exercise program.
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