Originally posted on April 28, 2015 at http://physiocanhelp.ca/preventing-falls-a-patient-info-sheet/
More than one-third of Canada’s elderly population (ages 65 and older) fall each year. It’s estimated that 50% of those who fall will suffer moderate to severe injuries such as sprains, hip fractures, or head traumas that can permanently reduce their mobility and independence.
Direct health care costs relating to falls among seniors in Canada are estimated at $1 billion every year. This accounts for 84% of injury-related admissions to hospitals, 40% of all admissions to nursing homes, and a 10% increase in home-care services.
More than 90% of incidents that result in injuries are predictable and preventable. Studies show that modifying the home and reducing hazards in the community can reduce the risk of falls by half. Impaired vision, mental functioning, and medication use are other risk factors.
Physiotherapy Can Help
Physiotherapists not only treat injuries, they also teach you how to prevent the onset of pain or injury that can limit your activity. A physiotherapist can discuss how home environment modifications can help prevent unnecessary accidents.
A physiotherapist will review a senior’s medical history and determine general physical condition, and will conduct a series of tests specifically designed to measure strength, flexibility, balance and gait (the way a person walks). After determining any limitations, a program of exercises and activities may be prescribed by your physiotherapist that focuses on that area but with an overall goal of improving physical function and mobility.
If required, a physiotherapist may also use treatment to increase range of motion and flexibility. These may include hydrotherapy, heat, and a home exercise program. In the event that poor balance is caused by damage to the inner ear, and there are additional symptoms such as vertigo, dizziness, or nausea, a physiotherapist may also prescribe a vestibular rehabilitation program that can correct the inner ear response to changes in position. Some physiotherapists take continuing education courses in vestibular rehabilitation; ask your physiotherapist if they have post-graduate training in this area.
Tips to reduce the risk of falling:
- Sit rather than stand while dressing;
- Before you get up out of a chair or up from bed, wait 10 seconds before rising to your feet to prevent dizziness, and get your bearings before you begin walking;
- Install handrails and grab-bars in the bathrooms and stairways;
- Make sure stairways are well lit. Install a night light at the top of the stairs;
- Concentrate on what you’re doing while you’re doing it, and move at a speed that feels comfortable;
- Immediately wipe up any spills, especially on ceramic floors;
- Keep a flashlight near the bed in case the power goes out;
- Avoid taking unnecessary risks like standing on furniture. Instead, use a sturdy stepladder, or better yet, ask for help;
- Put everyday items on the bottom shelf;
- Avoid hyper extending the neck. Extending the neck backwards can cut off circulation to the brain, causing a blackout or even stroke.
- When visiting the hairdresser, ask for an extra towel roll for the back of your neck;
- Manage medications properly and avoid consuming alcohol when taking medications;
- Be mindful around pets. Feet can get caught in leashes, dogs can knock you down or you can trip over the sleeping or wandering pet; consider placing a small bell on their collar to help you identify where they are;
- Slow down. Be conscious of risky situations and hazardous areas;
- Remove reading glasses when walking;
- Plant both feet securely on the ground before getting out of the car;
- Wear a good pair of lace-up walking shoes that will support your feet and provide necessary cushioning for your joints;
- Avoid high heels, slippers, and open-toed sandals, which can cause you to trip;
- Use aids for walking, balancing, hearing and seeing as prescribed by your physiotherapist, occupational therapist, or physician – view them as sources of strength to help you do things, not signs of weakness;
- In winter, before taking the garbage out to the sidewalk, sprinkle kitty litter, an abrasive cleaner or salt and sand to the curb. It might also help to sprinkle some on the ground before getting out of the car;
- Make sure the tips on canes and crutches are large and spiked for icy conditions
About the Canadian Physiotherapy Association
The CPA presents its educational references as a public service and for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The opinions expressed do not necessarily represent the opinions of the CPA membership.