September 22, 2017
September 22 marks the 10th annual Fall Prevention Awareness Day, and that makes this a great time to talk about how you can keep yourself or a loved one safe. At least 1 in 4 Americans 65-years-and-Older will experience a fall, which make falls a leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries in older adults.
Given its prevalence and seriousness, it’s important to address both how to prevent it, and what to do should a fall occur.
Preventing a Fall
Older adults often face health complications such as poor vision, low bone density, and poor balance, flexibility, and strength. These factors can make falls more likely, or more serious when they occur. But one of the best ways to help prevent a fall is to exercise.
There are several types of exercises appropriate for seniors that can help improve balance and flexibility, such as tai chi and yoga. For increasing strength, aquatics programs can be both enjoyable and beneficial—not to mention easy on the joints.
Falls can also be prevented through making environmental changes. Installing handrails on stairs and in bathrooms can offer big benefits. It’s also important to evaluate potential obstacles in the home—area rugs, furniture, and poor lighting can all make falls more likely to occur. For a more detailed evaluation, we recommend seeking the services of an occupational therapist, who can assess areas of high risk and offer advice on how to improve safety.
What to Do After a Fall
If you do suffer a fall, it’s important to be careful when attempting to get up. Assess your injury from where you are, starting by slowly attempting to move your legs and arms to see how they feel. From a lying down position, gradually lift yourself up into a sitting position and reassess everything. And once you’re upright again, make sure you call for help. Falls can be difficult injuries to evaluate, and even when there’s no sign of external injury, you may still be at risk for internal bleeding or other complications.
Similarly, if you’ve come to the aid of a person who has fallen, allow them to move gradually and help them evaluate the injury. Do not attempt to pick the person up—if there is a serious injury, it could be exacerbated by the effort. Instead, allow them to attempt to sit, then stand, on their own. And whether they are able to get back on their feet or not, be sure to call for professional help for a full evaluation.
If you feel you or your loved one is at risk for falls, ask your physician to refer you to a physical therapist to be evaluated and treated. Fall prevention is reimbursed by all insurance companies because we all recognize that prevention is better than treating the consequences.
Medicare recognizes that exercise plays an important role in helping seniors avoid injury, and in many cases will help pay for gym memberships to help you stay healthy. The Silver Sneakers program is an excellent resource for finding qualifying gyms. The Arthritis Foundation also maintains a list of exercise facilities for seniors.
For making home improvements that can help prevent falls, the National Association of Home Builders can provide a directory of businesses and contractors in your area with experience helping seniors maintain safety at home. And for a great collection of fall prevention resources all in one place, check out the National Council on Aging.
And, of course, we at Goodman Campbell are always happy to speak with you about fall prevention and other health issues facing seniors. Call us today at 888-225-5464 to schedule an appointment.