Falls result in self-imposed limitations and reduce the functional ability and quality of life of the elderly. People who have fallen once or twice are at risk of falling again and this may limit their activities and mobility, leading to reduced physical fitness. At the community level, the focus is on enhancing public awareness about fall prevention, developing systems to support fall prevention, and improving fall prevention in home and healthcare settings.
Studies show that successful fall prevention programs are those that involve a health screening of the persons at risk, followed by interventional measures to address the impact of the physical and environmental risk factors confronting geriatric patients.
The most important challenge when it comes to preventing slips and falls is to correctly identify the specific factors which put the individual at a risk of falling. A multifaceted slip/fall prevention program would include
- education to improve knowledge about fall risk factors
- exercises to improve strength, gait and balance
- modifications in the home environment to reduce/eliminate fall hazards
- medication assessment and reevaluation to reduce risk of falls
Successful fall prevention strategies are those that implement specific interventions that match the risk profile so that the individual gets a personalized program. For example, to prevent a fall, it would be necessary to look at the specific factors in the home environment that put person at risk. This could be an uneven surface, a slippery bathtub or poor lighting. It would also be necessary to look at physical risk factors such as weak leg strength or vision impairment. Even therapies to manage health conditions such as high blood pressure or poor sleep can have side effects that put the patient at a risk of falling.
A professional multi-specialty healthcare center would have the right approach to slip and fall prevention. A team of specialists that includes general physicians, physical therapists, orthopedic specialists, neurologists and others work together to evaluate the patient’s risk of falling/slipping and implement a personalized program to help reduce the risk. The first step would be a complimentary assessment covering the following:
- Gathering information related to the patient’s health history and evaluation of medical condition
- A complete medication review
- Evaluation of environmental risks with a complete safety assessment
In addition to recommendations to eliminate personal hazards, the patient is provided with a comprehensive interventional program to improve strength and balance through exercises, gait and balance training, and physical therapy sessions. Studies show that patients who enroll in such programs have a relatively low risk of repeat falls.