Falls Prevention Programs for an Aging Nation
By Western Berks on October 27th, 2018
Physical Therapists Boost Falls Prevention Programs as our Nation Quickly Ages
This year, one-third of all Americans 65 years old and older will experience a fall. Some will quickly brush off the dirt and go about their day, but others won’t be so lucky. The physical therapy profession has long been involved in fall-prevention efforts, guiding our seniors to ambulate safely, maintain mobility longer, and be more independent through our falls prevention programs.
Falls rank among the top burdens on our healthcare system, with $34 billion shelled out for fall-related injuries in 2013 alone, and threaten the health of our nation. Falls land a member of our nation’s elderly population in the emergency department every 13 seconds, and every 20 minutes an older adult dies from fall-related trauma, reports a survey conducted by Carnegie Mellon University’s College of Engineering.
Moderate to severe injuries incurred during a fall can lead to further health declines and loss of independence among our seniors. A team approach with a solid foundation of communication is crucial to adequately prepare for the steady stream of baby boomers crossing the 65-year-old threshold. As part of a medical team, physical therapists are trained to identify each patient’s risk factors, provide education and preventive strategies, and address impairments. The biggest risk factors for a fall include balance and strength impairments, medication interactions, safety issues in the home and community, and visual impairments.
Exercise has been shown to reduce the incidence of falls by up to 40% according to a new study published in The Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. The study reinforces the premise that falls are preventable with risk assessment and exercises that incorporate elements of balance, gait, and strength training. This could be music to the ears of U.S. adults who expressed concern in the Carnegie Mellon survey about an older parent falling, 54% of 1,900 participants to be exact. A physical therapy falls prevention program includes core strengthening, lower extremity resistance exercises and balance training.
Falls and their associated healthcare costs can be reduced by better integrating research into clinical practice and community programs. As healthcare increasingly embraces falls prevention and wellness strategies, strong communication between physicians, physical therapists and other key stakeholders will help to elders most at risk for falls.
Education, risk assessment and evidence-based falls prevention programs are available at Western Berks Physical Therapy. Western Berks Physical Therapy has comprehensive, evidence based treatment program optimizing functional outcomes for patients who suffer from gait disturbances, balance deficits, dizziness or vertigo, unexplained falls, unstable walking, and ear ringing.