My background as a Physical Therapist tends to draw me to topics that might not excite the rest of the world. I haven’t laid my hands on patient in years, and my lack of practice suggests that’s best for all involved! I recently read an article about fall prevention that I thought interesting enough to share.
Falls in the elderly are a problem. And I found this evidence on the CDC’s website to prove just how big of a problem they are.
- One out of three older adults (those aged 65 or older) falls each year but less than half talk to their healthcare providers about it.
- Among older adults, falls are the leading cause of both fatal and nonfatal injuries.
- In 2010, 2.3 million nonfatal fall injuries among older adults were treated in emergency departments and more than 662,000 of these patients were hospitalized.
- In 2010, the direct medical costs of falls, adjusted for inflation, was $30 billion
There’s currently a $30 million government sponsored study involving 6,000 participants that has researchers tripping seniors on purpose, and it’s not some kind of warped practical joke.
The experiment is among techniques being studied to prevent falls, the leading cause of injury in older adults. Falls in the elderly cost $30 billion yearly to treat and can send them spiraling into poor health and disability.
Conventional efforts to prevent falls include exercises to boost strength and balance, but researchers at the University of Illinois in Chicago are trying a completely different approach. It’s based on promising, preliminary results with a lab-built walkway that causes people to unexpectedly trip, as if stepping on a banana peel.
Now the same scientists are testing a similar approach with computerized treadmills. If it works, they envision specially designed treadmills in doctors’ offices, clinics and physical therapy centers for training people how to avoid falling.
In the meantime, and until the study ends, there are steps older adults can take to reduce their risks for falling. Some from the National Institute on Aging and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
—Exercise, including walking and stretching to improve muscle strength and balance.
—Have the doctor review all medications to check for side effects, doses or drug interactions that could cause dizziness or drowsiness.
—Get yearly vision exams to make sure eyes are healthy and glasses are the proper strength.
—Reduce risks at home including clutter and poor lighting; and install handrails in tubs and showers.
—Limit intake of alcohol, which can affect balance.
—Stand up slowly: Rising too quickly can sometimes result in a sudden drop in blood pressure, causing dizziness.
—Use a cane or walker if needed for steadiness.