The holidays are fast approaching! With all the yummy food and many miles to travel also comes time with our families. Many of us will visit our aging parents or grandparents, and amidst conversations around jobs or children, we may find ourselves hearing about an injury or fall that has occurred.
Nearly 52 million Americans are over the age of 65 at this current time.1 According to the CDC, 1 in 4 of these individuals will suffer a fall each year.2 Falls can lead to mild bumps and bruises or to more serious injuries like a concussion or hip fracture. Falls can lead to someone losing some or all of their independence by having to use an assistive device or move into assisted living or care facility. There are even some falls or injuries that may result in death. It is a serious topic, but there are many things we can do to help our relatives seek care and resources to assist them in remaining safe, independent and maintaining a high standard in their quality of life.
Most falls can be prevented. Where do you start to make sure your loved one remains safe, happy and independent? For starters, be aware of their balance and gait or walking pattern. You can see how they transition in and out of a chair. If they require a lot of assistance from their arms or another person, they are at increased risk for a fall. When walking, are they able to pick up their feet and step through with each step, to avoid common household objects such as rugs? Do they utilize the furniture or walls to assist with balance? How quickly are they able to move? Gait speed is being considered a major predictor of overall health and fitness. Look around the house for common tripping hazards– it may be time to help them rearrange furniture, remove a rug or adjust electrical cords. Observe the lighting – do they need a night light to help them get up and use the restroom at night? Installation of grab bars in the bathroom can assist with safety in getting in and out of the tub or shower. All of these factors should be evaluated and modified to minimize the risk of fall or injury.
Other common factors can be identified with conversation. Ask your relative if they are able to keep up with their medical care and appointments. Have they had their eyes checked this year? Vision issues can lead to difficulty identifying trip hazards, edges such as curbs, or other obstacles. Medications can also be a factor. Encourage your loved one to have conversations with their primary care provider to make sure their medications are being taken correctly, are still required, and to always update them with any changes. There can also be side effects of medications like dehydration and dizziness that may affect balance. Discussing non-prescription medications can be important as well, as there may be some interactions their doctor should be aware of to avoid issues with balance.
Physical therapy (PT) can be a great option if you are observing issues with balance or walking. A physical therapist can evaluate your relative’s strength, balance, gait speed, and other reliable predictable factors of falls to assess their risk. After identifying the risk, a physical therapist will construct an individualized treatment plan to assist your loved one in reaching their goals for safety, fall prevention, and maintaining their independence and lifestyle.
This holiday season, give the gift of fall prevention! Your holiday visit can be a great time to start a conversation that may give your relative the gift of safety and independence they can continue to open for the next year. Physical therapy could be your first stop for fall prevention and safety with balance. Click the button below to schedule a free assessment at a nearby Athletico today!
The Athletico blog is an educational resource written by Athletico employees. Athletico bloggers are licensed professionals who abide by the code of ethics outlined by their respective professional associations. The content published in blog posts represents the opinion of the individual author based on their expertise and experience. The content provided in this blog is for informational purposes only, does not constitute medical advice and should not be relied on for making personal health decisions.
1. “Fact Sheet: Aging in the United States.” Population Reference Bureau, www.prb.org/aging-unitedstates-fact-sheet/.
2. “Important Facts about Falls.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 10 Feb. 2017, www.cdc.gov/homeandrecreationalsafety/falls/adultfalls.html.
3. “6 Steps for Preventing Falls in the Elderly.” NCOA, 8 Aug. 2017, www.ncoa.org/healthy-aging/falls-prevention/preventing-falls-tips-for-older-adults-and-caregivers/6-steps-to-protect-your-older-loved-one-from-a-fall/.