Did you know the entire month of September is dedicated to raising awareness about fall prevention? Most everyone has experienced a fall at some point in their life, but some falls have devastating consequences. In this article, we equip you with the knowledge necessary to implement proactive fall prevention strategies in your own life or the lives of the ones you love.
Fall Prevention Saves Lives
According to the CDC, falls are the leading cause of injury and injury death in older adults (those over the age of 65). Every year, 3 million older adults are treated in emergency settings for fall-related injuries. Furthermore, one out of every five falls results in an injury such as a bone fracture or injury to the head. Sadly, the CDC estimates that each year there are 32,000 deaths as a result of falls in the older adult population. These numbers speak for themselves and paint a somber picture that clearly demonstrates the critical need for effective fall prevention programs.
What increases the risk for falls?
Normal age-related changes like decreased muscle strength, reduced bone density, slower reflexes, and reduced balance all play a role in increasing the risk for falls. Most importantly, individual fall risk is multifaceted and can include many other complex factors.
- Existing health conditions and diagnoses will impact the body in various ways that may contribute to increased fall risk.
- Changes in cognitive status or levels of confusion can result in unsafe behaviors that lead to falls.
- Fluctuations in blood pressure may result in dizziness and feelings of unsteadiness.
- Cardiovascular problems may cause fatigue and decreased endurance, requiring a person to take more frequent rest breaks.
- For patients taking multiple medications, the way these medications interact or changes in medication can also contribute to an increased risk of falls and more severe complications as a result of falls.
- Osteopenia and osteoporosis are of particular concern as some falls might actually be the result of an existing hip fracture that has gone undetected. An undetected fracture due to osteoporosis, typically located at the femoral head, will impact the way a person walks and moves throughout the day.
Be Proactive With Fall Prevention
Maintain Bone and Muscle Strength by Staying Active
As the old adage goes, if you don’t move it you lose it! It’s important to prevent bone and muscle weakness by participating in regular exercise. For more information about how to incorporate functional exercises into your daily life check out our blog, Functional Exercises for Everyday Life.
Fuel Your Body Properly
It can be easy to forget to drink enough water and have balanced meals throughout the day. However, our bodies need to be properly hydrated and nourished to create the energy needed to complete our daily activities safely. Not eating or drinking enough can cause fatigue, dizziness, and lethargy which can make movement more difficult and less safe.
Wear Safe Footwear and Clothing
Choose shoes that fit your foot securely and have a back as opposed to slip-ons. While memory foam might be comfortable on your feet, make sure the foam is not too thick as this can make you more unsteady while you walk since it is more difficult for your feet to feel the ground. Try to avoid pants that are too long and might cause you to trip or get caught on something in your environment.
Keep Your Environment Safe
While you can’t control every place you visit, you can make some adjustments to your own home that will set you up for success. Try to declutter, keep clear pathways that are wide enough for you to walk without and with any assistive device you use, tape down throw rugs, and install automatic night lights.
Use Assistance Devices When Necessary
There’s no shame in using an assistive device like a walker or a cane. In fact, you can even customize them now with fun colors and useful features. If your physical therapist has prescribed an assistive device for you to use, you should follow their instructions because this means their fall risk assessment has deemed it unsafe for you to walk without one. It’s also a good idea to use railings when they are available, especially during difficult weather conditions – sometimes your shoes or the step might be more slippery than it appears.
Check In Regularly With Your Healthcare Providers
Keeping an ongoing relationship with your healthcare providers will help you not only stay healthy but catch any problems that might arise proactively. Have your eyes and ears checked regularly and notify your provider of any changes in your vision or hearing as these are two important senses we rely on daily to keep us safe from falls. You also want to stay up to date with your current medications and be extra aware of your body when changing dosages or introducing a new medication. Lastly, another important professional that should be a regular part of your healthcare team is a physical therapist.
Get a Fall Risk Assessment From a Physical Therapist
Physical therapists are movement experts with doctorate-level degrees who are highly trained to identify movement dysfunctions and perform fall risk assessments with their patients. Seeking the guidance of a physical therapist should start long before a fall occurs. Unfortunately, many people only see a physical therapist after the first fall or injury. It is never too early to schedule an appointment with a physical therapist for a thorough assessment of your strength, functional mobility, gait, and fall risk.
With innovative technology like OneStep, connecting with a physical therapist for a fall risk assessment is easier and more accurate than ever. OneStep’s science turns any smartphone into a sophisticated motion analysis lab. Your physical therapist is able to precisely assess your walking pattern, have you perform movement assessments, and prescribe you a customized video exercise program using only your smartphone – all from the comfort of your home. To learn more about how OneStep is leading innovation in the fall prevention space, visit the science page on our website. To instantly connect with a physical therapist licensed in your state for a free fall risk assessment, download the OneStep app.
Keep on Your Feet—Preventing Older Adult Falls. CDC. Updated December 16, 2020. Accessed August 23, 2022.
Older Adult Fall Prevention. CDC. Updated November 2022. Accessed August 23, 2022.
Hip Fractures. AAOS OrthoInfo. Updated July 14, 2021. Accessed August 23, 2022.
Moreland B, Kakara R, Henry A. Trends in Nonfatal Falls and Fall-Related Injuries Among Adults Aged ≥65 Years — United States, 2012–2018. MMWR Morb Mortal Weekly Rep 2020;69:875–881.
Prevent Falls and Fractures. NIH National Institute on Aging. Updated March 15, 2017. Accessed August 23, 2022.