About one third of individuals over 65 and almost half of the individuals over 80 will fall at least once this year, according to the APTA. Among these older adults falls are the leading cause of both fatal and nonfatal injury related deaths. Falls may be caused by numerous reasons some of which can be prevented with proper education, training, and creating a safe home environment. Some factors that may increase your risk for sustaining a fall are as follows: if you have fallen before, have balance issues, muscle weakness, difficulty walking, arthritis, depression, difficulty feeling the bottoms of your feet, memory problems, vision problems, an unsafe home environment, and if you are currently taking greater than four medications.
Physical therapy can assist you in decreasing your overall risk of falling. A physical therapist will screen you for your risk for falling by assessing your ability to walk, the strength of your muscles, your ability to balance, your fear of falling, and evaluate the three systems of your body involved in balance. These three main systems include your vestibular system (the balance organs in your inner ear), the visual system (how you see where you are in space), and your somatosensory system (which is how you perceive where your body is in space). The physical therapist will help to identify any deficits you may be experiencing and develop a goal oriented program focusing on improving your needs. These individualized programs may be focused around lower extremity strengthening, balance training, walking, multi-tasking, vestibular system training, and specific education on home and community safety. A therapist can also provide training on what the safest steps are to take if a fall were to occur in your home.
In order to ensure you currently have a safe home environment please read some of the suggestions in the list below:
Remove any hazards around your home. These may include clutter in an area such as throw rugs or boxes.
Make sure your house is properly lit. The lighting should be bright in all hallways, stairwells, or areas where surfaces may be uneven. Also, be sure to use your lights even at night when your spouse may be asleep to be sure you can safely see where you are going.
Install grab bars as needed in hallways, showers, or around toilets if you have difficulty standing. Rails on both sides of your stairs will also make going up and down the stairs in your home safer.
Be sure to have a phone in every room, a cell phone in hand, and/or an emergency alert button on you at all times in order to make sure if a fall does occur you have a way to receive help.
If you or a loved one are currently experiencing difficulties with balance or are experiencing a fear of falling contact your primary care physician to discuss if Physical Therapy at Progressive Physical Therapy can be an effective treatment to improve your safety at home and in the community. Help give you and your family the peace of mind that your safety has improved at home and that you are aware of what to do in case of an emergency. Don’t become a statistic! Call 301-729-3485 to schedule an appointment or visit us on the web at www.progressive-pt.net.
Article submitted by Kierstin Stevenson, PT, DPT staff Physical Therapist at Progressive Physical Therapy.