Falls

Expert: How Older Adults Can Reduce Risk of Deadly Falls
Image: Expert: How Older Adults Can Reduce Risk of Deadly Falls

Falling — the unexpected collapse to the floor or other surface —has been called the “next tsunami of health care problems” by leading podiatrist and fall prevention expert Dr. David Griffin of Kaiser Permanente Medical Group.Falls are also the leading reason for emergency room visits by people aged 45 to 64 as well as older adults, Trevor Meyerowitz, PT, director of Rehabilitation for Preferred Physical Associates in Florida tells Newsmax. That results in 1.6 million ER admissions each year. And as Baby Boomers age, that number, too, will increase.

“There are many reasons that older adults are more prone to falling unexpectedly,” says Meyerowitz. “They develop muscle weakness, especially in the legs. Often the problem is poor balance when the brain fails to get the correct sensory input from the ocular system or the eyes, the vestibular system or the inner ears or the somatosensory system which involves the feet, muscles and ligaments relaying information back to the brain.”Often seniors develop slower reflexes that cause them to trip over something and are unable to catch their fall in time, he says. Surprisingly, closets are the number one location for falls.

“People can’t take their walkers in because the door is often too narrow, the lighting is poor and if they do lose their balance they put out their hand to catch themselves but can only grab onto hanging clothes,” he explains.

So the number one suggestion to prevent potentially deadly falls is to improve lighting throughout the house, adding nightlights especially on the way to the bathroom, he says. “Many of my patients fall at night on the way to the bathroom.”

Remove all clutter from the floor including towels in the bathroom, phone cords and area rugs.
  • Use non-slip bath mats outside the shower or tub, and place non-slip strips on the floor of the shower or tub.
  • Install grab bars in the shower and toilet and use a shower chair to wash one’s feet.
  • Rearrange furniture in the home so that you can walk safely and unobstructed from room to room.
  • Do not use a foot stool to reach items in the home. Place frequently used items within easy reach to reduce the risk of falling.
  • Some medications can increase your risk of falling. According to Harvard Medical School these include antidepressants, blood pressure meds, anti-anxiety drugs, pain relievers and sleep aids. Don’t try to get up out of bed too quickly. Sit up and make sure you aren’t’ too dizzy to rise.

Meyerowitz says that you can improve your balance training with a physical therapist to increase muscle strength, flexibility, and reflexes. You can also do simple exercises such as standing on one foot and then the other for 30 seconds when brushing your teeth. Or sit on a chair and get up and down several times to build muscle strength and balance.

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