If you still have questions about what you can do to prevent falls, we have you covered. In our final post of the month, we’re going to provide answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about fall risk reduction to help ensure you’re taking all the steps necessary to decrease the likelihood of a fall for yourself and/or a loved one.
A: First, conduct a walkthrough of your home—both indoors and outdoors—either by yourself or with a friend, family member, or professional if you need assistance. Take note of any obstacles or hazards that could potentially lead to a slip or fall, such as throw rugs, clutter on the floor, poor lighting, lack of handrails or grab rails, and uneven steps. (During the winter, another danger is ice on walkways and stairs). Once these potential hazards are identified, take measures to address them by installing handrails on both sides of all stairways, removing clutter—and keeping it off the floor—removing all throw rugs, improving the lighting in all rooms, and adding nonskid mats, a raised toilet seat, and grab bars as needed in bathrooms. Be sure to ask for assistance from a friend or family member with any tasks you’re not comfortable completing on your own.
A: Physical therapists are perfectly positioned to offer guidance on fall risk reduction because the entire practice is predicated on movement–based strategies intended to increase one’s physical function and avoid injury. A physical therapist will first perform a brief screening to determine your baseline fall risk, and if an elevated risk is detected, a more thorough evaluation of balance, strength, walking ability, footwear, medications being taken, medical history, and other parameters will follow. Based on the findings of this evaluation, the therapist will design a personalized treatment plan that’s intended to minimize fall risk. This may include education, balance training, a walking program, strength training, endurance training, and pain management.
A: Regular physical activity—like brisk walking, gardening, and doing household chores—is a great start to increase your fitness levels and reduce your fall risk, but performing specific exercises will have an even greater impact. The best types of exercises are those that improve strength, flexibility, balance, and proprioception (sensing your body’s location and position in space), all of which tend to naturally decline in older age. Here are four of our top exercises to address your weaknesses and reduce your risk for falling:
A: Absolutely! Doctors should always be extremely careful about choosing which medications to prescribe based on the risk for side effects and any potential interactions each drug could have with other medications, but you should also talk with your doctor before starting any new medication or if you notice any changes to your balance from the drugs you’re currently taking.
A: If you’re over the age of 65, it’s recommended that you have your eyes checked once a year. But if you notice that your vision has become somewhat fuzzy or starts to get progressively worse, don’t wait for your next appointment and have your eyes checked as soon as possible.
A: Here are a few additional steps you can take to manage your fall risk:
We hope that these posts have been educational, informative, and helpful for you and/or any loved ones that may be at risk for falling. Contact us if you’re interested in learning more about how to prevent falls or would like to begin a fall–prevention program with a physical therapist.