Accidental falls is a major health concern, and no one wants to say the words, “Help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.” Of course, falls can occur anywhere at any time, but they can also be prevented. Falls do not only occur to the elderly; other medical risk factors include anxiety, depression, poor vision, certain medications, dehydration, and diabetes.
With winter weather soon to be arriving, snow and icy covered steps and sidewalks are one of the main culprits when it comes to falls. Be prepared with salt to prepare steps and sidewalks. With that said, many falls also occur in the “safety” of home. One of the first steps to fall prevention is to look in the home. Loose area rugs, lack of ample lighting, obstacles in the floor space, and slippery floors are just some of the environmental factors. Elderly patients should get up from a seated position slowly and use assistive devices as required. If needed, install hand-rails along stairways and grip bars in bathrooms for the toilet and shower. Proper footwear is also important, both inside and outside the home. Nonskid, rubber soled shoes are the best; avoid slippers and socks alone. Also available are health alert necklaces that can be easily purchased.
If a patient has already suffered a fall, it is not too late. First, make sure they receive medical attention quickly and appropriately with their primary care provider or emergency room provider if required. A thorough physical exam, including specialized tests to see if you are at an increased risk for fall, should be completed. An eye and hearing exam should be scheduled and current medications reviewed with your healthcare provider. A DEXA scan, a screening test for osteoporosis, should be ordered especially if a fracture occurred. This test is currently recommended for all women age 65 or older and men age 70 or older, regardless of previous falls to screen for osteoporosis. Physical therapy and occupational therapy are also essential to regain strength, mobility and confidence at home.
The most important point to remember is that falls do occur, but they are preventable. While preparing for the holiday season, take the time to put these prevention measures into place to ensure the safety and health of your family.
Lara P. Trushel, PA-C
Schogel and Fardo Family Medicine
Please Note: This article is not intended as medical advice. If you have questions, please contact your health care provider directly.