OUT OF BALANCE ~ How To Detect and Avoid Your Patients’ Experiencing Potentially Dangerous Falls

Article by: Christine King published in the Summer 2012 issue of Palm Beach Woman Magazine   

There are several physiological changes the human body experiences as it ages. Connective tissue shortens and thickens which causes stiff joints. Our proprioception decreases (Proprioception is knowing where our body is in space at all times). Other changes such as vision, reduced mobility and loss of physical fitness are also large contributors.

 

 

When these changes occur there are several consequences including:

  1. Gait is compromised making falls more prevalent.
  2. We lose our balance easily, particularly on unsteady surfaces.
  3. We encounter trouble with ADL’s (Activities of Daily Living), which can place us in danger of tripping and falling.

 

Unfortunately, falls are a growing problem. According to the CDC, one out of three adults age 65 and older falls each year, but less than half talk to their healthcare providers about it. Falls are also the leading cause of injury death among this group. The great news is that falls are largely preventable.  watching how your folk’s move physically is a perfect method for you to begin trouble shooting these potential life threatening injuries.

Here are some pointers:

  1. When walking are the feet too close together?
  2. Do they pick up their feet enough and have a clear heel/toe strike when walking?
  3. Do they shuffle?
  4. Has their level of physical activity decreased in any way?

 

If you feel your parents are experiencing any of the above, NOW is the time to get them help before they experience harmful falls.  You should take them to a trained professional for an assessment.  This can be a Physical Therapist or a Post-Rehab/Medical Exercise Specialist. These professionals provide specific balance and gait instructions that your parents can practice for the rest of their lives.  In addition, if a fall does occur these professionals can provide safety instructions as to how to cautiously get up from the floor.  They can also teach you about dangerous obstacles in the household that cause falls.  Simple things like wires, area rugs and furniture that is too close together. Age does not equal balance issues and certainly doesn’t need to warrant the use of cane or walker.  Safely improving the level of physical fitness, practicing gait and balance exercises and weeding out dangerous obstacles in the home will help avoid injurious falls and help your parents to improve their overall quality of life and to be IN BALANCE!