Sobering statistics of falls…
1 in 3 people over the age of 64 fall at least once a year. This increases to 1 in 2 people over the age of 79.
Falling once doubles your chances of falling again.
According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, an older adult falls every second of every day. Falls are the number 1 cause of hip fractures and traumatic brain injury with 1 in 5 falls resulting in one or both of these injuries.
The mortality rate of a fractured hip is high with 10% at one month, 30% at one year, and it doubles over 12 years. This means that a person with a fractured hip is twice as likely to die as his/her healthy counterpart over the course of 12 years.
For those who survive a fractured hip, 26% returns to pre-morbid level at 120 days while an overall 50% get there in the end. Unfortunately, 10 – 20% relocates to residential care as they can no longer care for themselves due to significant mobility deterioration.
Causes of falls and who can help…
Falls are multi-factorial which means that there are a few factors that can increase a person’s risk of falling. These factors are categorized into internal factors and external factors.
Internal factors simply mean that the factors come from within you. Examples of these factors and which professionals are best suited to address them are as follows:
- Weak and/or stiff legs – physiotherapists and exercise physiologists can prescribe lower limb strengthening and stretching exercises.
- Peripheral neuropathy frequently caused by diabetes can result in poor sensation in your feet – physiotherapists can prescribe balance exercises to train other parts of your legs to become more sensitive to motion to keep you balanced despite numbness in your feet.
- Reduced proprioception (i.e. awareness of the position and movement of the body) – balance exercises by physiotherapists can improve one’s proprioception
- Poor eyesight – Do you need a new pair of glasses or are you still getting used to your new prescription? Are you developing cataracts? Visit your optometrist or ophthalmologist.
- Brain fog or feeling dizzy/lightheaded – some medications or taking too many medications may cause this effect. See your GP for a medical review.
Physiotherapists may also prescribe a mobility aid such as a walking stick or a walker to increase your stability and thereby improving your balance.
External factors are factors outside of one’s body (i.e. one’s surroundings). Our homes often present falls hazard that we are not necessarily aware of such as:
- Uneven ground and cracked footpath or steps that are difficult to see
- Poor lighting especially at night on the way to the toilet
- A cluttered house with little space to move in increases the chances of you tripping over something.
- Even in wide open spaces, objects on the floor such as toys, cables, slippery mats can cause you to trip over them and fall.
- Inappropriate footwear such as shoes that do not fit, slippers that can easily fall off, high heels
- Taking things on and off areas that are too low or high for you to reach
- Having a hob at the entrance of the shower
Occupational therapists specialise in conducting home assessments and making recommendations to address all the listed external falls factors and more.
Learn more about the pivotal role occupational therapists play in falls prevention and tips to help you reduce your risk of falling here.