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Falls: Are you at risk?

Falls: Are you at risk?

By Carol Lesh, Physical Therapist at Methodist Health

According to the National Council on Aging, falls are the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries for older Americans. One in four people age 65+ falls each year. However, falling is not an inevitable result of aging and can often be prevented.

How do I know if I am at risk for falls?
There are numerous risk factors for falls, including dizziness, balance problems, leg weakness, sensation loss in feet, urgency in getting to the bathroom, fear of falling, vision impairment, foot pain and a previous fall. Others include side effects of some medications and environmental hazards. The risk of falling increases with the number of risk factors present.

If I have any of the risk factors, what should I do?
You should speak to your doctor about your concerns. Your physician may complete a screening to see if you are an appropriate candidate for a community program, recommend a general exercise program, or refer you to physical therapy. They may also review your medications to see if any should be changed or eliminated.

What else can I do?
Have your vision checked annually. Poor vision can increase your risk of falling, and often vision changes are so gradual that you do not notice it has declined. Non slip mats in your bathroom can prevent losing your footing. Removing clutter is also important.

How can physical therapy help?
Your therapist will evaluate your fall risk in more depth, looking at your balance, strength, flexibility, sensation and your walking pattern. He or she may recommend an assistive device to aid in walking such as walker or cane and also suggest ways to immediately decrease your risk of falls, including adding handrails to your stairs, grab bars in your shower, using a night light, etc. You may be advised that a course of physical therapy treatment is appropriate to specifically address your weakness, balance impairment, flexibility or to teach you proper use of a walking device.

About Carol Lesh
Carol Lesh is a Physical Therapist in Therapy Services at Methodist Health. Her primary area of interest is neurological rehabilitation. To learn more about Therapy Services at Methodist Health, call 270-827-7593.