For people age 65 and older, falls are the leading cause of injury-related fatality. At least a fifth of those that fall have moderate to severe effects, including head trauma, spinal cord injury, and fractures. All falls are maddeningly unpredictable and usually occur in familiar surroundings. The single greatest prediction of a future fall is a past one. The chances of recovery are complicated by the fact that an elderly person who has had a fall may restrict daily tasks in order to avoid another one.
Recent studies have revealed that Vitamin D deficiency is becoming a recognized risk factor for falls in older adults. It is currently being recommended that older adults who are housebound or inactive due to physical limitations should take Vitamin D supplements.
The 4 proven strategies for preventing falls include:
- Participating in a specialized exercise program that addresses balance and gait disturbances. Studies have shown that personalized exercise programs reduce falls by 20%.
- Assessment of home hazards, such as removal of throw rugs and clutter, diminishes risk by 10-15%.
- Careful review of medications by your physician and/or pharmacist is also recommended since some medications may cause light headedness and/or lethargy which may contribute to a fall.
- A thorough vision examination is also imperative.
A physical therapist can assist a person in assessing their fall risk and work towards reducing that risk by determining an appropriate exercise program that addresses balance and gait disturbances. Physical and Occupational therapists can also assist with home safety assessments to determine home hazards and assist with problem solving to decrease these hazards and reduce the risk for falls in the home.
Allison Bakke, OTR/L
Above & Beyond Senior Services