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HOW TO REDUCE THE RISK OF FALLS IN THE ELDERLY

Risk of falls in the elderly

The risk of falling among seniors is a real source of concern, and rightly so, about 33% of people aged 65 and over living at home have already fallen. Falls are unfortunately a trigger leading to an early placement accommodation. Yet many available means of prevention exist and can significantly reduce the risk of falls. Here are some prevention tips you should follow:

The main causes of falls

There are three main categories of factors when it comes to falling:

  • Factors related to the individual (loss of muscle strength in the lower limbs, taking more than three medications, loss of vision, blood pressure, etc.)
  • Environment-related factors (dangerous stairs, cabinets above the stove, non-fixed carpet, etc.)
  • The behavioral factors (recklessness, impulsivity, etc.)

In general, factors related to the individual and the environment are easier to control and improve. Concerning fall prevention, physiotherapists work more on the balance and on strengthening the lower limbs of each individual.

In terms of behavioral factors, teamwork is essential to target situations that make those at risk of falling and make them aware of their limits.

The consequences of a fall

The fall of a person can cause a range of direct and indirect consequences. These main consequences are listed here:

    • Traumatology
    • Fracture
    • Dislocation
    • Sprain
    • Wound
              
    • Psychic
    • Anxiety
    • Insecurity
    • Demotivation
    • Loss of self-esteem

Of all the possible types of consequences, fear of falling is probably the most damaging. Indeed, the fear caused by the first fall often leads to a significant decrease in physical and social activities. This reduction in activities usually generates a deteriorating physical condition and psychological health can lead to other health problems.

Facts

Among those 65 and older, 10 to 15% of falls are considered serious. Every year in Ontario, these falls represent about 16,000 hospitalizations. Among all of injurious falls, 70% occur at home.

The means of prevention

Several methods have been proven to prevent the risk of a first fall or to minimize the chance of recurrence after the first incident.

  • Strengthening legs: Through exercises suggested by a physiotherapist, the elderly strengthens the lower body, which helps prevent injuries in case of falling.
  • Development of balance: A physiotherapist will also prescribe exercises & work with the elderly to improve his balance.
  • Evaluation of potential sources of falling at home: By making some adjustments, it is possible to greatly decrease the risk of falls (up 20%), especially among people with vision problems.
  • Cataract surgery (the first eye): This surgery, if needed, causes a reduction of falls of around 37%.
  • Health check-up: A comprehensive check-up by a healthcare professional can also help reduce the risk of falls by 27%.

Each year, many older people are injured by falling. Physiotherapy stakeholders play an essential role by providing targeted interventions and providing relevant information to our seniors and their families. These interventions help maintain the independence of older people and extend their life at home. For its part, the family has a motivational role in rehabilitation.  

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