Are You at Risk for Falling?
in three Americans over 65 fall at home each year. Falls are the leading
cause of death due to injury and the most common cause of nonfatal
injuries and hospital admissions among older adults, according to the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The high number of falls and
injuries is prompting medical professionals to warn older adults to
take the risk of falling seriously.
can lead to bruising, fractures, serious head trauma, or even death. In
addition to physical injury, falls may lead to loss of independence for
seniors. Even those who are not injured when they fall can develop a
fear of falling, which may make them reduce or stop physical activities.
In turn, seniors can lose mobility and physical fitness and actually
increase their risk of falling.
are many factors that may lead to a person suffering a fall. Risk
factors include decreased leg strength and flexibility, vision problems,
dizziness, home hazards and use of certain medications. The good news
is that many of these risk factors are avoidable and most falls can be
prevented. Working with a physical therapist can be an excellent way to
improve one’s strength, flexibility and balance. You and your physical
therapist can develop strategies to address your specific risk factors
and decrease your risk for falls.
one of the risk factors for a fall, can have a variety of causes – one
being the inner ear. About 20% of all dizziness is due to problems with
the inner ear. At Bluegrass Outpatient Center, a therapist can use state-of-the art video goggles to locate where in the ear the balance disorder is occurring. After
a thorough evaluation, you and your physical therapist can develop an
effective treatment plan to reduce your dizziness and risk of falling.
fall prevention should include vision checkups, a review of your
medications with your doctor or pharmacist, and a review of your home
environment to look for home hazards such as throw rugs, dim lighting or
low furniture. Another very important thing that older adults can do to
prevent falls is to maintain an active lifestyle, including regular
exercise focused on lower extremity strength and balance.
Here is a very simple and effective balance exercise to try at home:
at your kitchen counter with your feet as close together as possible.
Practice standing as still as possible, making sure that you can grab
your counter quickly if you start to lose your balance. If this becomes
too easy, close your eyes while standing to increase the challenge of
the exercise. As with all exercises, this activity should only be done
if you are certain you can perform it safely without suffering a severe
loss of balance, which may result in a fall. Speak with your doctor
before starting any exercise program.
For other ways to reduce fall risk and ideas on how to improve balance and strength, visit the CDC web site at www.cdc.gov or call Bluegrass Outpatient Center at (270) 796-6800.
Outpatient Center Fall Risk Program offers the Biodex Balance System.
With the Biodex, therapists can assess your level of control and
stability, and then help you improve balance, increase agility, develop
muscle tone and correct a variety of balance problems. For a free fall
risk screening or dizziness screening, call Bluegrass Outpatient Center
at (270) 796-6800 or 1-800-570-6887.
About the Authors
Moran, PT, MS has been a Vestibular (Dizziness) Specialist for ten
years. She is highly experienced in the use of Infrared Video Goggles
for the assessment of vestibular issues. Katy has been with Bluegrass
Outpatient Center for seven years.
Smith, PT, DPT, OCS is a Board Certified Orthopedic Clinical Specialist.
He stays up-to-date with the latest research on the topic of falls and
fall prevention. Gabe has been with Bluegrass Outpatient Center for five