How to Prevent Falls in Older Adults

Every year, more than 30% of older adults aged 65 and older suffer a fall, and falls are to blame for most visits to the emergency department and death from injury. So, what are some ways to prevent falls in older adults when the annual numbers, as reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, are staggering?

  • 29 million falls
  • 3 million ER visits
  • 800,000 hospitalizations
  • 28,000 deaths

As the baby boom generation ages, these numbers will most likely increase significantly in the future. Falls also come with enormous costs to society to the tune of over $50 billion in annual healthcare costs. These expenses will continue to spike unless we realize and confront the destructive impacts of falling and increase awareness of what people can do to keep falls from happening.

The balance dilemma is further compounded because older adults can be apprehensive of being honest with their doctors and family members when it comes to the number of times they’ve fallen. The source of this fear is rooted in the possibility of being put in a nursing home and stripped of their independence.

Interventions to Prevent Falls

Currently, more than 60 million people in the U.S. are at risk of a fall, most of whom are over 65. A variety of factors can cause balance challenges including:

  • Age
  • Inner ear issues
  • Joint problems
  • Vestibular system disturbance

However, older adults need not be passive victims of falling. Concrete actions and strategies exist for people to take control of their bodies and physical environment to prevent falls from occurring.

Physical activity and decreasing the use of psychotropic drugs are a primary way to reduce the incidence of falls, injuries, and hospitalization due to falls. Prevention of falls may be even more effective when undergoing a physical therapy or rehabilitation program individually tailored to a patient’s specific needs.

Physical therapy, when used correctly, can be a very successful treatment for vestibular problems and can quickly get individuals back to their daily activities. Vestibular rehabilitation therapy (VRT), a specially-designed exercise program to relieve vertigo and dizziness, gaze instability, and imbalance, has been shown to improve symptoms related to vestibular disorders effectively. Customized exercises are applied to each patient’s unique problem and medical history.

By being proactive, identifying balance deficiencies, and addressing them before falls occur, older adults can spare themselves expensive visits to the ER, the cost of follow-up medication and care, and maintain their health and quality of life.

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