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4 Tips To Reduce Your Risk Of Falling

Posted by Vicki on 01/15/2019

Have you or a loved one ever experienced a fall? The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) defines a fall as “an unexpected event in which the participants come to rest on the ground, floor, or lower level. (APTA, 2007).” In other words, you do not need to land on the floor in order to have had a fall!  

More than 1/3 of older people will experience a fall in their lifetime, and the likelihood of falling increases with increasing age. Many factors increase your risk of falling, including muscle weakness, difficulty walking, use of assistive devices, arthritis, difficulty with daily activities, depression, age > 80, and taking 4 or more medications (APTA, 2007).

One-third of adults over the age of 65 are likely to fall this year, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and they probably won’t be the only ones harmed.

"It's important to realize that falls among older persons, with their staggering physical, emotional as well as economic consequences, have the potential to impact not only patients, but all members of a family,” Robert Glatter, MD, wrote in Forbes (“Why Falls Should Be Part Of The Doctor-Patient And National Conversation For Older Persons” – July 28, 2015).

Falls cause everything from scrapes and bruises to broken arms, and 95% of hip fractures. Indeed, with falls leading to more than 700,000 hospitalizations per year, related medical costs exceed $30 billion.

The good news is that research shows that older adults can proactively prevent falls and their dangerous consequences with the help of a physical therapist.

A systematic review of randomized controlled trials ("The effectiveness of physical therapist-administered group-based exercise on fall prevention: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials” – October-December 2013) demonstrated that group-based exercises led by a physical therapist are effective for decreasing fall frequency, increasing balance, and improving quality of life. The results also suggested the group-based exercises promoted greater patient satisfaction and exercise adherence. Additionally, physical therapists can evaluate a person’s fall risk and create an individualized plan to improve your balance and strength.

Tips to Decrease Risk of Falling

  1. Identify potential fall hazards in the home, including stairs, high thresholds, clutter, obstacles, throw rugs, poor lighting, cords, etc. Ensure that all stairs or steps have sturdy handrails to assist with mobility.
  2. Do not walk while clinging onto furniture or walls. People who exhibit this behavior have difficulty walking when there is nothing to hold on to (parking lots, large rooms, etc.)  Consider using a cane or a walker to provide assistance wherever you go.
  3. Physical activity can also decrease risk of falls. Having sufficient leg strength and cardiovascular endurance to perform activities helps decrease risk of falls due to fatigue.
  4. Training your balance in a variety of conditions can help prepare your body and brain to handle difficult situations found in everyday life including walking on grass or thick carpets, inclines and declines in sidewalks, and windy conditions.

If you or a loved one have a history of falls, consider physical therapy! Physical therapist can help you assess your risk of falling and design a program to help you live a safe and happy life!