Fall Risk

The costs of falls are not the only impact on an older adult.

It is time for most people to think about ways to make a meaningful change to their health and lifestyle. 

Maintaining our mobility and independence becomes a main concern as we age. 

The common problem impeding this goal is a fall. Older adults state their biggest fear about getting older is the fear of falling – the fear of getting hurt and not being able to maintain their current lifestyle or living situation.

The National Council on Aging states, “Falls are the leading cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries for older Americans. Falls threaten a seniors’ safety and independence and generate enormous economic and personal costs.”

 The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports the financial toll for older adult falls is expected to increase as the population ages and may reach $67.7 billion by 2020. 

The costs of falls are not the only impact on an older adult. The fear of falling can also become a reality for those who have experienced a fall.  This fear can lead older adults to restrict their social outings, suffer depression, isolation and physical inactivity. 

We have all heard about someone who has fallen or know someone directly who has suffered from a fall. But we tend to think it won’t happen to us.

 Being aware of how common falls are and doing what we can to prevent falls and raise awareness is vital to keeping our communities healthy and safe for people as they age.

 Having these conversations with the older adult population is important, as one in four Americans 65+ fall each year. 

However, falls are not an inevitable part of aging. Here is a list of ways you can prevent yourself from falling.  

Talk to your doctor: Schedule a visit with your physician to review the list of medications you are taking, including supplements, herbs, and over-the-counter prescriptions. 

Schedule an eye exam: As you get older you rely more on your vision for balance.  Annual eye exams are important to maintaining good eye health.  

Exercise:  Find an evidence base exercise program such as Tai Chi for Arthritis & Fall Prevention or Matter of Balance.  If you can’t find a class, visit your physical therapist to help you create a safe and effective balance and strength program.  

Home improvements: Add grab bars in bathrooms; place railings next to steps; improve lighting around your home; remove rugs; remove clutter and obstacles in walkways. 

Maintaining good balance is great for your health and is a skill that can be improved with practice. Fall prevention and awareness can go a long way to keeping you or a loved one safe. 

Benjamin Franklin once said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” We cannot cure the human tendency to fall, but if we take simple steps toward prevention, we can improve health outcomes both for our communities and ourselves.

- Dr. Lianne Rogers, physical therapist and fall prevention specialist, owns Balance by Li At-Home Physical Therapy and Wellness.  For information and a free copy of her report on how to improve your balance, email her at info@balancebyli.com or go to BalanceByLi.com.

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