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Why Fall Prevention is Important

BY A STAFF WRITER

CHICAGO, IL- Falls are a major threat to the health and independence of older adults. Each year, one in three older adults aged 65 and older experiences a fall, and people who fall once are two to three times more likely to fall again. Falls can be devastating. Falls are the leading cause of nonfatal injuries among older adults. One out of ten falls causes a serious injury, such as a hip fracture or head injury, which requires hospitalization. In addition to the physical and emotional pain, many people need to spend at least a year recovering in a long-term care facility. Some are never able to live independently again.

Understanding fall risk factors Falls are not an inevitable consequence of aging. However, falls do occur more often among older adults because fall risk factors increase with age. A fall risk factor is something that increases a person’s chances of falling. This may be a biological characteristic, a behavior, or an aspect of the environment. These risk factors include:

Biological risk factors – Muscle weakness or balance problems – Medication side effects and/or interactions – Chronic health conditions such as arthritis and stroke – Vision changes and vision loss – Loss of sensation in feet Behavioral risk factors – Inactivity – Risky behaviors such as standing on a chair in place of a step stool – Alcohol use Environmental risk factors – Clutter and tripping hazards – Poor lighting – Lack of stair railings – Lack of grab bars inside and outside the tub or shower – Poorly designed public spaces.

Usually two or more risk factors interact to cause a fall (such as poor balance and low vision) (Rubenstein and Josephson 2006). The more risk factors a person has, the greater their chances of falling (Tinetti et al., 1986). Home or environmental risk factors play a role in about half of all falls (Bergen et al., 2008).

Understanding these risk factors is the first step to reducing older adult falls. Over the past two decades, researchers around the world have identified fall risk factors and used randomized controlled trials (RCT), to test fall interventions. RCTs are considered the “gold standard” for evaluating an intervention’s effectiveness. The results of these studies show that reducing fall risk factors significantly reduces falls among community dwelling older adults—that is, people living independently in the community.

Many older adults, as well as their family members and caregivers, are unaware of factors or behaviors that put them at risk of falling. They are also unaware of actions they can take to reduce their risk. Fall risk factor assessment is rarely part of an older adult’s routine health care, even if they have had a fall or fall injury. All older adults should be encouraged to seek an individual fall risk assessment from their health care providers, especially older adults with a history of falls and/or with mobility or balance problems.

Who are at highest risk for falls. A fall risk assessment is covered in the annual Medicare Wellness Visit. To help older adults better understand their fall risk, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Injury Center helped develop the Stay Independent brochure. This is a validated fall risk self-assessment tool that can be used in clinical or community settings to raise awareness about fall risks as well as help older adults begin to discuss this sensitive topic with their health care providers. The Stay Independent brochure is available at: www.cdc.gov/STEADI.

Additional research reveals that a physical therapist-prescribed exercise program targeting balance and strength can be effective in improving a number of balance and related outcomes in older people with mild balance impairment. Physical Therapy Solutions is offering a FREE FALL RISK ASSESSMENT consultation, please call: 847-240-2000 to schedule your consultation (this is a limited time offer).

Physical Therapy Solutions is the only facility in the northwest suburbs of Chicago with a comprehensive balance and fall risk program along with a strengthening program. Assisted with a medical history from your doctor, we can perform specific tests to determine your ability to maintain your balance as well as your risk of falling. Our computerized equilibrium tests can evaluate the sensory and motor parts of your balance system. Sensory tests assess inner ears, eyes and sense of touch in your feet and joints that contribute to balance control. Our motor tests will measure your ability to execute coordinated movements, both voluntary and involuntary, to maintain your balance.

All of these tests will help define the cause of your balance problem and are the foundation of devising a unique, individualized program for you. We utilize a state-of-the-art balance machine and our balance therapy programs have a 98% balance improvement success rate.

Rupangi Patel PT, Co-founder/CEO of Physical Therapy Solutions Group, is a physical therapist with more than 31 years of experience gleaned over two continents. She has been serving the Northwest suburban area since 1990 and she opened her own clinic in 2005. Rupangi is skilled in evaluating and treating various orthopedic and neurological conditions and has expertise in vestibular rehabilitation. She has undergone

extensive training in the treatment of patients with balance and mobility ailments, with a particular focus on dizziness. Rupangi and her team of eight therapists have helped thousands of patients get back to enjoying their daily living. For more information or to schedule a FREE FALL RISK ASSESSMENT consultation, please call: Physical Therapy Solutions 847-240-2000.