Why is fall prevention and screening so important?
Falls are the leading cause of unintentional injury for older adults. 1 in 4 adults 65 and older fall each year (Matchar, 2018). Sustaining a fall can lead to fractures, decreased quality of life, as well as fear and anxiety about future falls. There are many factors that can increase the risk of having a fall, screening and being aware of these factors is an important step in preventing a future fall and injury.
Falls are multifactorial, what contributes to fall risk?
- Previous history of falls
- Fear of falling
- Strength deficits
- Gait and balance impairments
- Taking multiple medications
- Poor footwear
- Tripping hazards at home
Am I at risk for falling?
Some risk factors and signs that you may be at risk for falling:
- Do I have a previous history of falls?
- Have I fallen in the past year?
- Is my home environment safe? (e.g. Rugs, furniture, stairs, furry friends)
- Do I have a fear of falling?
- Is my assistive device properly fitted?
- Am I wearing proper footwear?
- Do I feel unsteady on my feet?
What steps can I take to begin preventing falls?
- Stay active – Regular exercise helps to prevent bone loss, build muscle, and improve range of motion. It is important to get at least 150 minutes of physical activity a week (CDC).
- Get enough sleep – Sleep is important to maintain concentration and balance during the day as well as important in being able to stay alert and oriented.
- Drink enough water – Dehydration can lead to dizziness, confusion, and fatigue.
- Clearing obstacles – Make sure all halls and walk ways in your house are clear of tripping hazards, including cords, floor mats, blankets, and furry friends.
- Use an assistive device if you feel unsteady on your feet – Properly fitted and appropriate use of canes and walkers can help you to feel steady and safe on all walking surfaces and decrease fall risk.
- Wearing proper footwear – It is important to wear shoes with non-slip soles.
- Schedule a physical therapy appointment to screen for fall risk.
How can Physical Therapy help?
A physical therapist can help provide you with a proper screening and fall risk assessment. This is completed by assessing balance and gait impairments, along with completing a strength assessment. Following an evaluation, a Physical Therapist will provide the appropriate balance and strengthening exercises to help you live a more active and functional life and get back to doing what you love. If you have any questions or concerns about a risk of falling we offer free screens where you can discuss these issues with one of our physical therapists.
Florence CS, Bergen G, Atherly A, Burns ER, Stevens JA, Drake C. Medical Costs of
Fatal and Nonfatal Falls in Older Adults. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society,
Matchar, D. B., Eom, K., Duncan, P. W., Lee, M., Sim, R., Sivapragasam, N. R., Eng
Hock Ong, M. (2018). A Cost-Effectiveness Analysis of a Randomized Control Trial of a
Tailored, Multifactorial Program to Prevent Falls Among the Community-Dwelling
Elderly. American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine.
Todd C, Skelton D. (2004) What are the main risk factors for falls among older people and what are the most effective interventions to prevent these falls? Copenhagen, WHO Regional Office for Europe