Photo: woods wheatcroft photography

Falling Down Can Be a Serious Matter

English: St Annes Nursing HomeAlthough young children and athletes fall more often, older adults have a higher incidence and susceptibility to injury following a fall due to osteoperosis and slower reflexes. In the age group 65 and over, 35% to 40% of healthy adults fall annually, 75% of the deaths due to falls occur in 13% of these adults. Incidence of falls in nursing homes and hospitals are almost three times higher than those adults living at home.

Risk factors for falling include: muscle weakness, arthritis, history of falls, gait deficit, balance deficit, use of assistive device, visual deficit, neurologic deficits, depression, age over 80, greater than 4 medications, and fear of falling itself.

Did you know that if you are over the age of 65 and have fallen 1time in the past year and gotten injured or have fallen 2 times without an injury, Medicare wants you to have a Physical Therapist perform a Falls Risk Assessment? Your doctor should be asking at your annual physical if you’ve fallen in the past year. If he or she forgets, please make sure you let them know you have fallen so they can refer you for proper evaluation.

Physical Therapists have a lot to offer. We can assess your balance, muscle strength and range of motion in your hips, knees and ankles. Decreased balance prevents people from safely reaching out or down to the floor safely. Decreased hip and knee strength may lead to muscle imbalance and gait abnormalities. You may notice that similar to toddlers who are just learning to walk with what is called a “wide base of support,” older adults also adopt this walking stance. They often have decreased hip and ankle movement causing their gait to change and become less stable. Falling may occur in diabetics who have poor sensation in their feet and literally can’t feel where they’re walking.

Treatment may include stretching, strengthening, and balance retraining. Patient education for maintaining a home program is important to ensure strengthening continues after treatment in the clinic is finished. A patient’s home environment is also reviewed to address any issues with stairs, ramps, doorways, clutter, poor lighting, electrical cords, or throw rugs.

Mary Boyd, MS, PT is the owner of Mountain View Physical Therapy and a member of the Sandpoint Wellness Council. She can be reached at 290.5575 for questions regarding falls.

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