Living At Home and Managing Fall Risk
Fall is in the air, with cooler nights, shorter days, and autumn leaves dropping before our eyes. This special time of year is also a good time to highlight a very dangerous, insidious, but common occurrence that those of us in the healthcare profession deal with all year long. When older adults fall, the effect may be more serious than you might expect. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in three older adults aged 65 and older experiences a fall each year. Among those 65 and older, falls are the leading cause of injury death. They are also the most common cause of nonfatal injuries and hospital admissions for trauma.
As people are living longer, and trying to stay in their homes as long as they can for personal and financial reasons, it is important to look closely at ways to manage the risk of falling. A recent non-injury fall is a strong indicator of likelihood of future falls, but often goes unnoticed. Its embarrassing to fall, but it needs to be discussed with your physician.
Your physician can also help explore your personal risk factors for falling. Many medicines commonly taken may cause dizziness. Physical fitness is also a key factor. Adequate lighting and current vision screening, including proper eyeglasses prescription and use are also important. A Home Safety Evaluation by an occupational therapist can serve as a comprehensive, in-home review of all these factors, and should be referred by the physician.
Finally, for those who have more significant mobility impairments, it may be time to review the adaptive devices used to assist in mobility. It may be time to upgrade from a cane to a walker, or a walker to a wheelchair. An electric wheelchair is an effective means to prevent falls when used properly. A Mobility Evaluation by an occupational therapist can also be ordered by your doctor, and may help find a solution to managing your risk for falls.
Written by Flint Stearns, OTR/L
Published January 2011