Don’t Fall For It: Minimizing the Risk of Falling
Part Four of a Four Part Series
by Yvonne LaCrosse, PTA
Minimize The Risk of Falling
One of the biggest concerns among the aging population is falling, and for good reason. A fall can be the beginning of a decline in your lifestyle. It is also the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries in older Americans, according to the NCOA, or National Council On Aging. Not enough effort has ben put forward to minimize the risk of falling. It is my hope that this article can help thousands of readers better manage this risk.
Don’t Fall for It… Here are a few statistics on falls in the aging population:
1. One in four Americans aged 65+ fall each year
2. Every 11 seconds, an older individual is treated in the ER for a fall; Every 19 minutes, an older individual dies from a fall.
3. Falls are the leading cause of fatal injury and the most common cause of non-fatal trauma related hospital admissions among older adults.
4. Falls result in more than 2.8 million injuries treated in emergency departments annually, including over 800,000 hospitalizations and more than 27,000 deaths.
5. In 2014, the total cost of fall injuries was $31 billion.
6. The financial toll for older adult falls is expected to increase as the population ages and may reach $67.7 billion by 2020.
There is a light at the end of the tunnel; falling is not a normal part of aging and can be avoided. There are many systems that we use to have good balance; below, we will discuss each part of our balance system so that you are armed with the knowledge on how to best avoid a fall risk.
Exercises for Balance
1. Eyesight: Above we discussed the importance of seeing our Doctors when we have medical issues, so it is very important that we take care of any vision issues that we may be experiencing.
2. Inner Ear Problems: If you experience unexplained dizziness, ringing in the ears, feelings of spinning- you may have an inner ear condition and will need to see your Doctor for treatment as soon as possible.
3. Muscle strength: We addressed strengthening above but did not discuss that being physically strong can help to prevent a fall.
4. Proprioception: our ability to communicate between our brain and our body is very important; this spatial awareness of where our body is in space is called proprioception. It can be affected by having surgeries, neuropathies, and other health problems. We can improve our proprioception by testing our balance in safe situations. For example, if we were walking on cement, and it suddenly changed to sand, our brain needs to alert our feet to be prepared for this, as it takes more balance and strength to walk in sand than on a firm surface.
15 Second Hold
While standing at a steady surface, such as the back of a chair, or a countertop, start by holding on with both hands and lift one foot from the floor. Hold for 15 seconds. If this is easy, the next step would be to let with one hand. Hold for 15 seconds. Let go with the other hand but have your hands ready to catch yourself if needed; try to hold for 15 seconds.
Once you have mastered exercise one, move on to Exercise Two below for a bigger challenge.
Stand on One Leg
You will want to stand at a steady surface such as a countertop. Place a piece of foam, a couch cushion, or a pillow on the floor and while holding on with both hands, lift one foot up and stand on one leg- try to hold for 15 seconds. Once this feels easy, remove one hand from the counter and hold for another 15 seconds. And finally, the most challenging would be to remove both hands from holding on and try to stand on one leg for 15 seconds, or as long as you can stay steady. Don’t forget to do these exercises on both legs!
Two Women Who Fell and Fractured a Knee Cap (in their own words)
I consider myself fairly determined, and when I saw that the number 130 was the end, it was like okay, I'm going to go there. Every day there was progress, and that was what was so heartening. I could see that I was getting stronger and better.
Linda found the X10 Knee Recovery System three months after a series of unfortunate orthopedic events... including a fall, full leg cast and rehab that just did not work. Read her story here.
Don’t live frightened, that is no good. Just be smart… love yourself, take care of your body and live a long and healthy life. Falling is a big deal so take the steps provided here to simply avoid falling. You’ll be happy and I’ll be happy knowing that you took the right steps to protect yourself.
To read the other three parts of this series click below:
The X10 Meta-Blog
We call it a “Meta-Blog” because we step back and give you a broad perspective on all aspects of knee health, surgery and recovery.
In this one-of-a-kind blog we gather together great thinkers, doers, writers related to Knee Surgery, Recovery, Preparation, Care, Success and Failure. Meet physical therapists, coaches, surgeons, patients, and as many smart people as we can gather to create useful articles for you. Whether you have a surgery upcoming, in the rear-view mirror, or just want to take care of your knees to avoid surgery, you should find some value here.