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Elderly Falls Prevention

March 02 | 2019
Posted by Sharon Tierney

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Elderly Falls Prevention

Elderly Falls prevention is a huge societal issue.  It affects many aspects of society including health care spending and caregiver stress.  As a result injuries and effects from a fall can be very serious, both for the patient and the family involved.

Elderly Falls Prevention

Characteristics of the elderly Population

There are some who have been able to maintain their mobility and strength and continue to stay healthy and active.

Then there are those who are struggling with their day to day activities due to weakness and frailty.  

There are also those who fall somewhere in between.

 Those individuals who are either at their most frail or heading towards that level of function are at most risk of falling.  

It is important to describe why the elderly are more at risk of falling than the general population. Elderly Falls prevention is extremely important for all of these reasons!

Causes of Weakness & Frailty in the Elderly

The reasons for weakness, loss of function/mobility and frailty are variable and may include:

  • There may be a strong genetic component like osteoarthritis
  • Disease/Conditions
    • Any disease that affects your strength and/or mobility may place you at increased risk of falling
    • For Example,this could include Osteoporosis, Parkinson’s Disease, Multiple Sclerosis or Stroke
  • Injury
    • Any previous or recent injury may affect your ability to walk safely
    • This is especially true if you did not receive the appropriate treatment for an injury
    • This may result in lingering problems that continue to worsen with time
    • Examples would include previous falls and fractures
  • Medications
    • A lot of seniors are on a variety of medications for different health issues. As an example, these may include cardiac medication, blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, etc.
    • Sometimes certain combinations of medications may produce symptoms like dizziness and confusion. As a result, that may place the senior at more risk of falling.
  • Inactivity
    • Some seniors have developed loss of mobility, strength and balance due to a mostly sedentary lifestyle
  • Dementia
    • Dementia refers to the decline in memory and other thinking processes
    • As dementia progresses, these limitations may affect their ability to take care of themselves
    • Patients with dementia may forget to take their medications . In addition, they may hurt themselves and not remember that they are injured
    • As a result, these types of changes can lead to an increased risk of falls

What happens if we fail at Elderly Falls Prevention?

Outcomes of Falls

Falls pose a severe threat to the health and well being of this population.  Potential injuries with a fall are the most concerning:

  • Sprains/Strains
  • Fractures
    • Hip fractures are the most serious consequence of falling for seniors with osteoporosis  
    • Patients are at increased risk of early death for many years after a hip fracture
  • Joint Dislocations
  • Head trauma
  • Concussions

Psychological Impact of Falls on the Elderly

There is lots of research out there stating that having falls increases the fear of falling.  

An individual who falls and hurts themselves does not want to go through it again.  

This would be especially true for those who suffered major injuries like a fracture or head trauma.  

For some the wish not to want to fall again becomes a real fear.  

This fear would then prevent them from trying to be more active so that they don’t hurt themselves again.

However, limiting their activity places them at increased risk of falling because it contributes to more loss of strength, flexibility and overall fitness.  So, it becomes a vicious cycle.

Psychological Impact of Falls on Caregivers

  • A lot of the time, falls may result in hospitalizations or require a lot of caregiver support.
  • This is because falls for seniors can cause a variety of injuries.  
  • This can put a lot of pressure on the family involved causing emotional and financial stress.
  • For example, if family members need to take time off work to provide support or if they need to hire someone to provide one on one care.
  • Therefore, it is important to do as much elderly falls prevention as possible to avoid the negative consequences of these injuries.

Societal Impact of Falls

Issues with falls or fear of falling are also important for health care spending. Falls cost the health care system millions of dollars in ER visits, hospitalizations and surgeries.  Reducing the occurrence of falls will therefore save a lot of money. The goal is for Seniors to remain in their own homes.

Treatment options for Elderly Falls Prevention

  • It is important to try and interrupt the cycle of falls.  
  • The best way to do that is to promote exercise and an active lifestyle.  
  • Being active allows seniors to regain their confidence and be more mobile. This is the best thing for their health.
  • This is especially important as they get into the later years of their life when joint stiffness, muscle weakness and other age-related changes are more prominent.  
  • Seniors who do not participate in regular exercise place themselves at risk of having a poorer quality of life.
  • Activity is also very important in the management of a lot of the health conditions that affect the elderly population.  
  • Research consistently shows the importance of exercise in the treatment of arthritis, diabetes, fibromyalgia, osteoporosis and neurological conditions like stroke and Parkinson’s Disease to name a few.

Places to Receive Elderly Falls Prevention

There are lots of options available in the community for the elderly population to get active and work towards preventing falls.  

  • Seniors’ exercise programs at community centres
  • Mall walking groups
  • Falls prevention programs through hospitals and rehabilitation centres
  • Working with a registered physiotherapist in a community clinic
  • Pickle Ball is also a very popular activity for seniors
Sample Exercise for Elderly Falls Prevention

Benefits of working with a Physiotherapist from PhysioNowB

Seeing a Registered Physiotherapist in a community clinic is a great way to work on falls prevention.  The programs offered through community centres and hospitals tend to be done with a group of participants.

Seeing a Registered Physiotherapist in a clinic setting like PhysioNow would allow for a more one on one treatment. This would allow the falls prevention exercises and education to be tailored specifically to that person.

  • A Registered Physiotherapist will have the experience to assess the risk of falling.
  • The Physiotherapist will provide guidance towards exercises and activities that are safe for the senior to do.
  • They can check the range of motion and strength limitations.
  • The Physiotherapist can then provide a specific exercise program that targets those problem areas.
  • In addition, the Physiotherapist can supervise the exercise program in the clinic. This will be a safe and controlled environment.
  • Lastly, the Physiotherapist can progress the exercises as the senior shows improvements.  
  • As a result, this will ensure that the senior is doing what they need to do to build up their endurance and tolerance for activity.

How wills Elderly Falls Prevention Treatment Help?

As the senior learns to get more active and mobile, they will improve their risk of falling.  In addition, they will also gain confidence in their ability to take care of themselves. Most importantly, having improved strength and mobility will allow them to do more with their loved ones. As a result, they will enjoy the later years of their life. Lastly, elderly falls prevention strategies will allow seniors to live independently.

If you or someone you know is afraid of falling or feeling unsteady on their feet, Call PhysioNow today!. We have Physiotherapy Clinics in Mississauga, Etobicoke and Oakville to serve you.

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