Advancing of age is directly proportional to reduced independence of movement. In fact, the risk of falls among geriatric patients is very high due to issues such as low blood pressure, balance or gait impairment, polypharmacy referring to intake of more than three prescription medications, and the use of sedative-hypnotic medications.
For older adults, falls can lead to hip fractures, disability, reduced body functions, and even early death. According to reliable statistics, around 5% of old age falls result in fractures while 25% of elderly patients over 65 years of age with hip fracture lose their lives within six months. The remaining 25% of them experience significant function loss and 50% undergo decreased mobility.
Most falls are caused by lack of proper measures in relation to the weakness and general health condition of the individual. Since most falls occur at home, it would really help if measures are taken to avoid or remove the hazards that could cause a fall such as slippery and uneven floors, poor lightning, cluttered pathways, unstable seats, curled carpets, lack of sufficient grab bars in the bathroom, and so on. While these are major environmental factors that must be regulated, there are also physical factors in the elderly individual such as certain kinds of illnesses, muscle weakness, poor eyesight, reduced balance as well as medications that must be checked, since these could also increase the risk of falls.
This is one of the areas where the old adage ‘prevention is better than cure’ holds true. Multi-specialty healthcare facilities offer Slip / Fall Prevention programs for geriatric patients and older adults. What is needed to enroll in one is a doctor’s referral based on increased risk of fall due to existing medical conditions or age.
A well-planned program generally consists of two parts: assessment and conditioning. All the factors that may cause a slip and fall are assessed such as strength, balance, walking speed, and overall gait analysis. Environmental factors that can cause a fall are also identified. The conditioning part of the program focuses on reducing these risk factors.
If the individual experiences balance, muscle weakness, or any other issue, an exercise plan is created that will help in preventing the fall. These exercises can also help improve gait and enable the individual to walk with more confidence. Comprehensive fall risk assessment programs allow geriatric patients to enhance their independence and improve their balance, strength and overall physical abilities.