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Fall Prevention and Awareness

Posted September 05, 2012 in Advice Column, Urbandale, West Des Moines

The National Center for Injury Prevention and Control estimates that one out of three adults ages 65 and older fall each year, and fall rates increase with advanced age.

Many of those falls cause serious injury resulting in fractures of the hip, wrist, ankle, ribs or vertebra, even death. Older adults who have fallen previously are two to three times more likely to fall again in the following year.

Those at the highest risk are older adults in the first two weeks after discharge from the hospital. Medical conditions increase the risk of falls as well. Heart disease, stroke, Parkinson’s and low blood pressure can cause dizziness and balance problems. Diabetes can cause loss of sensation in the feet.  Arthritis results in loss of flexibility. COPD or other breathing difficulties result in weakness and fatigue with only slight exertion. Vision problems such as cataracts and glaucoma decrease visual function. Medications can also be a risk factor. Small pets are also responsible for several falls.

A comprehensive assessment from a registered nurse in your home can help identify your fall risk score. The nurse will develop a care plan based on your individualized needs. In addition to skilled nursing, physical therapy can help to increase strength and improve balance, increase range of motion and endurance. Similarly, occupational therapy can help with energy conservation and maintain motor skills for personal care. Speech therapy might help with expression of needs. Personal emergency response systems allow for peace-of-mind during a fall and touch of button will allow for help to be on its way. The in-home health nurse might also recommend and facilitate companion care to allow you to have support during the day or night.

Tips to avoid falls include:
Regular exercise. Regular moderate physical activity increases your muscle strength and balance.

Eat a balanced diet. Good nutrition results in higher energy and stronger bones.

Eliminate hazards in your home. Obvious hazards like poor lighting, throw rugs and clutter, and you will be less likely to trip and fall. Clear pathways. Use nightlights.

• Consider a bedside commode or urinal. Use a shower chair or shower bars.

• Wear the right shoes. Select sturdy, low-heeled shoes with rubber soles for traction.

• Take extra care. Take your time and think ahead, especially in new or unfamiliar places.

• Review your medications with your home health nurse, your physician and your pharmacist. Your in-home health nurse will ensure that there are no contraindications or duplicate drug therapy. Be sure to report all prescribed and over-the-counter medications to your health care provider so he or she can assess the benefits and risks of each drug.

Most everyone wants to stay independent in their own homes as long as possible. A complimentary in-home health assessment by a registered nurse can help you identify the areas in your home that put you at risk for falls.

Information provided by Judy Troster, R.N., Iowa Home Care Clinical Resource Manager, 515-222-9995.

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