Slip Not! 4 ways to prevent falls in the home
11/5/2015 3:30 PM
As we age, it’s inevitable that muscle tone and reaction time decrease. The mechanisms in our inner ear that provide balance deteriorate and our body’s ability to determine its own position, motion and equilibrium decreases, too. All of these things lead to a higher probability of falling for older adults.
According to fallprevention.org, more than 30 percent of adults over the age of 70 fall each year. Beyond that, 16 percent of emergency department and seven percent of all hospitalizations are direct results of fall-related injuries.
There are several steps that can be taken to strengthen your body and prepare your home so that you—or a loved one—don’t become the next fall-related statistic.
“First and foremost, the most important thing for anybody to do as they age is to remain active,” said Melanie Caldwell, a physical therapist at Central Texas Medical Center’s Rehabilitation Institute.
“There are many things that people can do—regardless of physical ability—to lessen the chance of a fall. I recommend being purposefully active for five to ten minutes three times per day.” Some of the activities Caldwell suggests include dancing, yoga or low-impact exercises including water aerobics.
If you’re not physically able to participate in those kinds of activities, don’t let them intimidate you, says Caldwell.
“Exercise doesn’t have to be overwhelming. It’s possible to do exercises lying on the couch such as moving ankles up and down or in circles, bending your knees, raising your leg—anything to increase flexibility and muscle strength. Inactivity is the single biggest predictor of secondary falls.”
Catherine Wright, a home health physical therapy assistant at CTMC, points out four of the most common household hazards to be aware of in order to prevent falls:
• Throw rugs in the house should ideally be removed or you should use non-slip pads under the rugs.
• Small pets can easily get underfoot and cause falls. As difficult as it might be, people with a high fall risk might consider giving their pets to other family members.
• Household clutter: living in a large home can become overwhelming as we age and are unable to take care of it. If you are unable to remove trash or other potential obstacles, it might be time to consider hiring help or moving to an assisted living facility.
• Lack of proper lighting at night for bathroom visits can pose a problem.
Wright adds: “The bottom line is that many falls are preventable—there are precautions and steps that people can take to greatly lessen their chance of falling and increase their ability to live a vibrant and injury-free lifestyle.”
What’s your fall risk?
Family members can discuss whether or not the patient may qualify and benefit from home health services with the CTMC Home Health team by calling 512.753.3584.
A qualified provider can also teach several exercises and provide demonstrations of what you can do to strengthen muscles and lower your fall risk. The CTMC Rehabilitation Institute also provides quarterly balance screenings that are free to the public. For information, call 512.753.3539.