September is Falls Prevention Month. This topic is one that hits close to home for me after my 87 year old father, who was on blood thinners at the time, sustained what he deemed an insignificant fall after getting up from the couch, slipping and landing hard on his bottom. Aside from a bruised bum and pride, he didn’t see any other obvious injuries or side effects, so he didn’t inform his doctors or family. It wasn’t until several days later, he started experiencing weakness and needed to use a walker. My father, who had been going to the gym daily and walking unassisted, suddenly became so deconditioned that he could barely stand up. The fall he sustained, had caused small vessels in his brain to stretch and snap, and since he was on blood thinners, the bleeding continued between his brain and skull, and without any room to escape, the pressure was applied directly to parts of his brain, affecting his strength, mobility, and ultimately his speech. Fortunately for my family, it was discovered in time and after undergoing surgery to remove the blood and stop the bleeding, he made a full recovery after months of physical therapy and rehabilitation.
But not everyone is so fortunate.
According to the National Council on Aging, over 1 in 4 adults over 65 years of age, experience a fall each year. It is the leading cause of fatal injuries and most common cause of non-fatal trauma admissions to the hospital.
Falls result in more than 3 million injuries treated in the emergency room, yearly.
Regardless of age, implementing a falls prevention program is key to reducing the risks of these injuries. Here are some tips and things to consider:
- Wear sensible shoes that are non-skid with a firm sole that provides stable arch support. Avoid flip flops, socks, or slick soles that can cause you to slip, stumble, and fall.
- Clear walkways - Remove any tables, plant stands, chairs from high traffic areas. Remove electrical cords, hoses, boxes, or rugs that can pose a trip hazard.
- Maintain good lighting throughout areas you frequent so as to not trip on hard to see objects, and turn on the lights before walking into any room or stairs.
- Use assistive devices - This is perhaps the biggest struggle for many of our patients. Many view them as a sign of weakness or loss of independence, but in fact, it’s quite the opposite. Canes and walkers provide stability so that you may continue doing things in a safe manner. Install grab bars in bathrooms and showers or tubs and always use handrails along stairs.
- Stay active and keep moving - Part of the reason that doctors and therapists felt that my father had made such a remarkable recovery was that he had been so active prior to his injury. Physical activity can provide you with strength, balance, coordination, and flexibility, thereby reducing the risk of falls, but should you sustain a fall, your chances of recovery are improved. If you are fearful to start any activity or exercise, talk to your doctor.
- Most importantly, follow up with your doctor for any falls or injuries and monitor any abnormal symptoms or side effects following a fall and seek immediate medical attention.
Tell your doctor or podiatrist if you have been feeling unstable or off balanced. Shoe gear recommendations can be made and an assessment to see if you qualify for physical therapy or occupational therapy to improve strength, stability and coordination. A fall risk assessment of your home can also be made by home health care services.
Call us at (512) 394-5108 or make an appointment online at Bluebonnet Foot and Ankle Institute if you have any of the above concerns either for you or your family members. We are here to keep you moving!