Written By: Kristy L. Harken, PT, DPT
Falls Prevention Awareness Week is a national health campaign observed on the first day of fall to increase awareness around falls health and injury prevention. Falls Prevention Awareness Week occurred September 20-September 24 this year.
As a country, we have dedicated an entire week to the awareness and prevention of falls. The dedication of an entire week to anything is pretty suggestive of its importance. Why is the prevention of falls so important? It is because of all the ripple effect that a fall has not only on the person who has fallen, but their family and caregivers and our healthcare system.
According to the CDC, more than 1/3 of adults 65 years and older fall each year in the United States. 20-30% of those who fall suffer moderate to severe injuries. Moderate to severe injuries could include fractures of the hip, ankle, and lower leg, fractures of the wrist, elbow, upper arm and shoulder, concussions, internal bleeding, etc. All of these injuries lead to increased medical costs such as emergency department visits, surgeries, post fall medical care. These injuries also place an increased demand on families as care givers when a person who has fallen now requires assistance with walking, bathing, dressing, cooking, caring for themselves, etc.
But that is only one side to the coin. The flip side is that many of these falls can be prevented. That’s right—prevented. Please don’t just chalk this one up to old age! Here are some ways to prevent falls:
- Gait, balance, and functional training
- Tai Chi
- Home assessment and modifications
- Reduction or withdrawal of psychotropic drugs
- Multifactorial interventions (individual fall-risk assessment followed by tailored interventions and referrals to address risks)
- Vitamin D supplements for those deficient
I try not to make these blogs posts a sales pitch for therapy. But I do work and write for a therapy company and I am a physical therapist. I have heard my fair share of “I’m off balance and unsteady and it’s because I’m old and nothing can change that.” And nothing could be farther from the truth. While I cannot change your age, I can help you become more balanced and stable through increased muscle strength, joint stability, neuromuscular re-education, and improved proprioception.
Also, did you know that one of the most important skills of an occupational therapist is their ability to assess the home for safety and make recommendations for modifications? If you or your loved one is always falling in the kitchen or the bathroom, an occupational therapists can help figure out why and make recommendations for improvements whether through rehabilitation, compensation or adaptation.
You are never too old and it is never too late. Give us a call today!