Updated: Jul 24
Falls Prevention Month may not be until September, but Team Davis recognizes the risks and leading causes of falling exist year-round. This is especially true for older adults. Creating awareness and highlighting fall prevention training programs are important steps to keep on your feet. But we start with a bit of background and what may be alarming facts.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than one in four individuals over the age of 65 sustain a fall every year. In fact, falls are the leading cause of death, injury, and loss of independence among older adults. However, with proper fall prevention training, individuals of any age can learn to effectively reduce their risk of falling, prevent injury, and extend their self-reliance long term.
Falls can happen to anyone at any time. Yet for older adults, the risk of falling is most often related to a combination of factors, many of which occur with aging. These include, but are not limited to:
Balance impairments caused by vision changes, vestibular deficits, or altered sensation, such as peripheral neuropathy
Medical conditions, including neurological, orthopedic, or cardiovascular diagnoses
Decreased strength and coordination
Poor posture and limited mobility
Stiff and/or painful joints
Use of multiple medications
The first step in any fall prevention program is a thorough evaluation to determine risk factors, identify possible causes of imbalance, and establish an individualized physical therapy treatment approach. The training that results typically involves exercises that improve balance, strength, and flexibility in combination with extensive education regarding fall prevention strategies and resources.
Balance training is the most important and effective part of a fall prevention program. Safe guidance through exercises that challenge one’s ability to sustain your static (stationary) and dynamic (moving) balance can be expected. This is followed with a focus on the ability to prevent and recover loss of balance during anticipatory and reactive tests. For the best results, a balanced program should be adapted frequently to maintain a consistent level of balance challenge.
Strength training is another key element of a successful fall prevention program. An individualized strengthening program should be developed to target specific muscle groups, particularly the antigravity muscles, including the core, gluteals, quadriceps, and gastrocnemius. A comprehensive program also incorporates resistance training to improve strength and endurance for maintaining balance and recovering from a loss of balance event.
Throughout the training, patient education is an integral part of any fall prevention program and physical therapy management. It should include individual fall risk management, techniques to maintain quality of life, available educational resources, and referrals to community programs.
By participating in fall prevention training, older adults can improve their overall health and wellness, reduce their risk of injury, and maintain their independence. If you or a loved one are interested in fall prevention training, speak with your healthcare provider or local community center to learn more about available programs.
Talk to a healthcare provider - If you or a loved one has had a fall, is experiencing unsteadiness and/or fears falling. It is important to schedule an appointment with a healthcare provider and discuss your concerns. A complete evaluation can identify potential causes for falls, unsteadiness, or balance impairment, including medications or medical conditions/diagnoses. Based on the results, you can be referred to an appropriate professional who will further address your individual needs, including physical therapy.
Stay active - One of the best ways to reduce the risk of falling is to stay healthy and strong through exercise. This includes working to achieve the recommended 30 minutes of exercise a day, whether it be walking, strength training, water aerobics, tai chi, or other activity you enjoy. To help get started, your local community center or gym generally offers a variety of fitness classes for individuals of any age. Note: Always consult your physician or physical therapist before starting any new exercises or activity, especially if you have balance or fall concerns.
Reduce home hazards - It may seem hard to believe, but falls can happen right in the home. To reduce your risk, removing trip hazards such as unsecured rugs/carpeting, clutter, cords, or furniture in heavily trafficked areas is a good place to start. Night lights in bathrooms and hallways assist with vision after dark and assistive devices, including non-slip mats, grab bars, and/or shower chairs in the bathroom, can go a long way in preventing falls.