fall prevention

Fall Prevention

Falls can diminish your ability to lead an active and independent life. About one third of people over the age of 65 and almost half of people over the age of 80 will fall at least once this year. There usually are several reasons for a fall. Physical therapists can help you reduce your risk of falling by:

  • Assessing your risk of falling
  • Helping you make your home as safe as possible
  • Educating you about the medical risk factors linked to falls
  • Designing individualized exercises and balance training
  • Working with other health care professionals and community services to create programs for people who want to reduce their risk of falling

What Are Falls?

The reasons for falls are complex and include:

  • Being 80 years old or older
  • Leg muscle weakness
  • Difficulty with balance or walking
  • Vision problems (cataracts, macular degeneration, wearing bifocals)
  • Medical conditions that limit your ability to get around, such as Parkinson disease, stroke, or diabetes
  • Conditions that cause confusion, such as dementia and Alzheimer disease
  • Depression
  • Taking more than 4 medications at the same time or psychoactive medications (such as sedatives or antidepressants)
  • Using a cane or other walking device
  • Home hazards (throw rugs, pets underfoot)
  • Low blood pressure

The more risk factors you have, the greater your risk. The factors associated with the greatest fall risk are:

  • A history of previous falls
  • Balance problems
  • Leg muscle weakness
  • Vision problems
  • Taking more than 4 medications or psychoactive medications
  • Difficulty with walking

How Can a Physical Therapist Help?

If you are worried about falling or if you recently had a fall, your physical therapist can conduct a brief check (“screening”) of your fall risk. If the screening shows that you are at risk, the therapist will perform a thorough evaluation, including:

  • A review of your medical history
  • A review of your medications
  • A simple vision test
  • A home safety assessment
  • A simple screen of your thinking abilities
  • A check of your heart rate
  • Blood pressure measurements while you change positions (from sitting to standing)
  • Feet and footwear assessment
  • Assessment of any nervous system disorders, such as stroke or Parkinson disease

The therapist also will:

  • Measure your leg strength, using simple tests such as timing how long it takes you to risk from a chair
  • Determine how quickly and steadily you walk
  • Assess your balance—for instance, by having you stand on one leg or rise from a chair and walk
  • Use special tests to measure your balance

Based on the evaluation results, your physical therapist will design an exercise and training program to improve your balance and strength. A recent systematic review of many published studies found that exercise-based programs in the home or in group settings are effective in preventing falls. These programs are especially effective when balance exercises are performed in a standing position without using much arm support.

For more information, Contact us today at Miami, Boca Raton, Fort Lauderdale & West Palm Beach, FL Centers.