At least 1 in 4 older adults will report a fall this year. Falls are NOT a normal part of aging even though they happen often. They can be prevented. Click on this link to take a Balance Quiz developed by the Greater Los Angeles VA Geriatric Research Education Clinical Center and discover if you or a loved one are at an increased risk for falls. A score of “4” or more indicates a higher risk of falling and an urgent need to take action to decrease your risk. Use the quiz as a script to talk to your doctor about ways to reduce your chances of falling.
There are also things you can do at home to decrease your chances of having a fall:
- Remove trip hazards. Remove small rugs in the house like in the bathroom, kitchen, or near chairs. Be especially mindful of the walkways, clearing the paths of things like decorative baskets, tote bags, and appliance or charging cords.
- Keep your floors clutter free. Keep discarded newspapers, magazines and mail off the floor.
- Use night lights. Place them in hallways, bedrooms and bathrooms so the floors are always lit to prevent you from bumping or tripping on something.
- Install grab bars and/or handles in the bathroom. This is a common place for falls. Grab bars or handles near the toilet and tub give yourself something extra to hold onto that can prevent a fall.
- Get a home assessment. A physical therapist or occupational therapist can come to your home and help you with any modifications or recommendations to make your home safer.
- Stay active. Regular exercise has proven to keep people more flexible, mobile and keep both your heart and brain healthy. There are a variety of ways to stay interested in physical activity, such as joining a walking group or a senior adult fitness class. Programs like Tai Chi have shown to be very effective at reducing fall risk.
- Ensure you are using mobility assistive devices properly. If you begin using or are currently using a cane, walker or rollator, it is important that you are fitted for that device by a trained professional. Using a device that is not fitted to you can increase your chances of using it incorrectly and actually causing a fall. A physical therapist can fit you with a device that is safest for you as well as train you to use it properly.
If you are feeling weak then you probably are! As you can see from the Balance Quiz, something as simple as needing to use your hands to help you push up from a chair into a standing position can signify weakness linked to higher fall risk. Talk to your doctor about how physical therapy may be able to help.
Randi Leblanc, PTA, is an ACE Clinical Expert in Fall Prevention with TMC, a contract therapy services company currently providing services at Wesley Place on Honeysuckle in Dothan, AL. To learn more about our active lifestyle or rehabilitation center in Dothan, AL, call Holly at 334-500-3437 for a tour.