One in four Americans age 65+ falls every year, with falls being the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries for older Americans (Source: NCOA)

Falls are NOT an inevitable part of aging and many falls are preventable. Falls are costly in terms of actual medical expenses and also in terms of quality of life. Many people tell me that they don’t participate in certain activities because they are afraid of falling. You can reduce your fall risk significantly with some basic lifestyle modifications.

The American Journal of Preventative Medicine published a study that highlights four areas of intervention that can help prevent falls or reduce fall risk:

Your Environment

Throw rugs, clutter, poor lighting, reduced path, need for grab bars in the bathroom contribute to falls risk. An Occupational Therapist is skilled at looking at your home and making suggestions to improve safety.

Your Vision

When was the last time you had your vision checked? Ask your eye doctor to check your prescription annually. Be careful walking or climbing stairs when wearing reading glasses or bifocals. They change your perception.

Exercise

The AJPM study looked at two interventions: skilled physical therapy (The Otago Program) and Tai Chi. Both are great options for reducing your fall risk.

It is important to participate in some form of exercise at least two (better yet, three) times per week. The UVM Medical Center offers Enhance Fitness, an exercise class for older adults which meets three times per week. This evidence-based class helps improve strength, endurance and balance. And, we have fun!

Basic medication review

Review your prescriptions with your primary care provider or pharmacist at least once a year. Many medications increase your fall risk due to adverse side effects or interactions with other medications.

Why Does My Doctor Always Ask If I’m Falling?

We can help!

Please come see a physical therapist if you are worried about your balance, or fear of falling keeps you from the activities you enjoy.

To see the full AJPM article, click here.

To learn more about the Falls Prevention Clinic at the UVM Medical Center, call 847-0193 or click here.

For more information about Enhance Fitness, call 802-847-7012 or click here.

Cathy Shearer, MPA, PT is an outpatient physical therapist at the University of Vermont Medical Center and is a certified clinical specialist in Geriatrics (GCS). 

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