Foiling Falls: What Works and What Doesn’t

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What can you do to help prevent your loved one from falling?

This coming Saturday (September 22) was recently named, "National Falls Prevention Awareness Day."

Falling presents a serious health risk for the elderly. Thirty-three percent of adults over age 65 fall every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). For the senior population, falls top the rankings of injury-related death and are the most frequent cause of hospital trauma admission.

There are steps seniors and their caregivers can take to decrease the danger presented by falls.

A recent analysis of 159 separate studies on fall prevention in the elderly sheds some light on what existing research has to say on how to help a senior stay steady on their feet.

  • Exercise: Seniors who engaged in varied workouts (combining endurance, flexibility, balance, and strength) experienced a 15 percent decrease in their risk for falling. Tai Chi was also a beneficial exercise. The Chinese martial art was linked to a 28 decline in risk of falls in the elderly.
  • Having a doctor double-check meds: Programs aimed at weaning older adults off of certain prescriptions that may make them more prone to falling (anti-anxiety meds, sleep-inducers, and anti-depressants), appeared to cut down on their fall risk.
  • Correcting physical problems: Surgeries such as cataract correction and pacemaker implantation effectively decreased falls in seniors suffering from certain eye and heart conditions.
  • A home safety check-up: Having an occupational therapist evaluate and modify a senior's home slashed their fall rate by 19 percent.
  • Vitamin D supplements: Suggesting supplements didn't appear to have a statistically significant effect on seniors in general when it comes to fall prevention, though study authors say that those who suffer from a serious vitamin deficiency may benefit from supplementation.
  • Education alone: Educating the elderly on the dangers of falls and how to prevent them didn't help when nothing else was done to follow-up (i.e. no accompanying exercise program).

Check out the Mobility and Falls section for more information on how to help your loved one stay upright and injury-free

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