STEPS TO REDUCING FALLS
Tid Bits of Info
- In 2015, more than 50 billion dollars were spent on fall-related healthcare costs for people 65 yrs or older.
- In one study of nearly 3500 people, age 65 or older 1 out of 4 people reported falling at least one time in the past year.
- In the U.S., more than 75% of fall-related health care costs in people 65 yrs old or older is funded by public programs.
- In people 65 yrs old or older, someone is treated for fall-related injuries at the emergency room every 11 seconds and someone dies of a fall every 19 minutes.
- Seek preventative help from a Physical Therapist to avoid falls in the future.
Accidental falls can cause serious injuries and even death. Most people experience a sudden slip and fall at some point in their lives, but some people are at high risk for falling and suffer injuries. Aging, health conditions, medications, and physical weakness are some of the many issues that can contribute to accidents. Physical Therapists regularly help high-risk patients reduce risk factors for falling.
Healthcare costs associated with falls is astronomical and will most likely rise if healthcare professionals don’t begin screening their patients/clients for risks of falling. If the person is deemed a “fall risk” they should be placed in a program that will address their limitations or deficits with the hopes of resolving the issues and avoiding a fall.
Some of the most common causes of falls include the following:
- weak musculature especially in the core and lower extremities
- balance disorders
- reactions to medications
- poor vision and hearing
- foot conditions that limit strength
- motion or sensation
- memory loss
- systemic diseases or illnesses that can affect many of the bodily functions
When healthcare professionals evaluate someone, all of the above should be considered when someone mentions that they have fallen recently. These “risks” must be addressed and the patient should be treated to resolve or begin the resolution process of the “risk”.
Weak muscles can be caused by the natural aging process, but more commonly they develop due to lack of activity. “Use it or lose it” is a common phrase in Physical Therapy settings and the lack of strengthening exercises will lead to very weak muscles. People of all ages as susceptible to this phenomenon and must be more active.
Poor balance can be a result of weak muscles, but many times the “balance center” of the human body or vestibular system is not functioning well. There are healthcare professionals that specialize in treating the vestibular system and it has been reported that more than ½ of the population over the age of 65 years of age have some vestibular system deficit.
Systemic diseases that cause weakness or loss of sensation must be treated aggressively and consistently. Falling down due to a systemic disease such as diabetes and peripheral neuropathies that develop in the feet is very common. If the diabetes is “controlled” throughout someone’s lifetime the development of sensory loss in their feet is usually impeded as well.
If someone is taking medication that makes them lightheaded or dizzy, they need to be especially careful at all times and if it is severe enough they must remain seated or have someone help them with every step.
Vision and hearing deficits can make it harder to move around safely. The person who suffers from these deficits will have a more difficult time with depth perception, difficulty adjusting to lighting changes and adjusting to uneven surfaces. Wearing bifocal glasses can make it difficult to move around because some people look through the wrong lens when they are walking.
Falls should be a great concern for everyone and especially all healthcare workers. At this time, there is not enough preventative therapy and treatment for high-risk individuals. Healthcare providers currently spend most of their time treating the fall victim and not helping people of all ages prevent the fall from happening in the first place. Too many people fall every day and with some “preventative medicine” a lot of them could avoid the fall and injuries or death that go along with it.