Catch yourself: Fall Prevention

Posted on

Jan 15, 2016

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Why is Fall Prevention Important for Aging Adults?
More people are living longer into the later stages of their lives and wish to stay active and remain healthy and productive. However, falls are a major threat to the health and independence of aging adults 65 plus. Serious falls can result in physical pain, such as hip fractures and head injuries which could end up in a prolonged hospital stay. Recovery from a traumatic event usually is more complicated than a planned elective surgery, due to severity. Not only do falls come at a high price for an individual emotionally, physically, and financially, the fall itself may be preventable.
Changes come with age
Aging is a complex process involving progressive degeneration of ones body and mind, influenced by genetics, gender, and a wide range of environmental factors. Systemic changes occur as we age, impacting the heart, lungs, digestive system, vision, hearing, bone mass, brain function, joints and muscles. Aging individuals may experience a reduction in their level of energy, changes in sleep patterns, and cognitive challenges, like memory loss. These changes can affect balance and increase the chance of falls; therefore, maintaining physiological functions is important to the well-being of an aging individual.
Understanding fall risk factors
Although maintaining a healthy lifestyle reduces the risk of falls, inevitable physiological changes occur as a person gets older that increases the risk factor. As we age, the chances of developing complex medical conditions increases, such as diabetes, stroke, heart attack, osteoporosis, arthritis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and congestive heart failure. A fall resulting in immobility can amplify physiological changes associated with the normal aging process. Various medication side-effects and interactions can cause dizziness/drowsiness, which can increase fall risk. Vision or hearing loss can contribute to falls by disturbing balance and by obscuring tripping and slipping hazards. Environmental factors should also be considered. Remove throw-rugs, install grab bars, wipe-up spills, use rubber mats, and clear outdoor walk paths. Increasing awareness about fall risk factors and ways to reduce fall risk is crucial in effectively preventing falls.
Editors Note: This article was submitted by Bonnie M. Leavy-Mello, M.B.A., Director of Community Outreach, Laurel Ridge Health Care Center, managed by Athena Health Care Systems. Bonnie has 25 years of experience in healthcare and has extensive knowledge in long-term care and can be reached at 203-438-8226.

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