Travis Williams DPT
Marcus Daly Rehabilitation Center
1200 Westwood Drive
Hamilton, MT 59840
As we continue through another cold Montana winter, it is important to
maintain our health and stay injury free. Falls are one of the biggest
public health epidemics of this decade. More than 30% of people aged 65
years and older and more than 50% of people aged 80 years and older will
fall every year (Stevens 2011). Falls are the leading cause of head injuries
and fractures in older adults. Severe consequences of falls can also include
loss of confidence, loss of independence and even death. The economic
costs of falls are significant. Therefore, healthcare costs can be reduced
if falls are reduced. Falling is not an inevitable part of aging. The
majority of falls occur because of multiple interacting factors including
leg muscle weakness and impaired balance. Strength, flexibility, balance
and reaction time are easily modifiable risk factors for falls. People,
of all ages, can improve their strength and balance to achieve stability
and reduce falls. Through practical lifestyle adjustments, evidence-based
programs, and community partnerships, the number of falls among seniors
can be reduced substantially.
The National Council on Aging (NCOA) presents 6 steps to prevent falls:
First, find a good balance and exercise program. Continue to build your
balance, strength, and flexibility through programs in the community or
working with your physical therapist. Second, talk to your healthcare
provider about your history of falls or your apprehension about exercise.
Ask them to assess your risk of falling so they can refer you to get help.
Third, regularly review your medications with your doctor or pharmacist.
Polypharmacy and medication side effects are significant problems in the
aging population and may increase your risk of falling. Fourth, get your
vision and hearing checked annually and update your eyeglasses. Your balance
relies on the delicate interaction of your vision, your ears, and your
joints to provide feedback to where your body is in space. Fifth, keep
your home safe. Remove any hazards such as throw rugs and clutter to avoid
tripping in your home. Increase the lighting; make stairs safe w/ railings
and install grab bars where needed. Sixth, talk to your family members
to get their support to take these simple steps to stay safe.
The first step to preventing falls is finding a good balance and exercise
program. The NCOA supports the implementation of evidence-based falls
prevention programs. So what is an evidence-based fall prevention program?
They are programs developed and tested rigorously through many trials
and have statistically significant results. They target a specific population;
have measurable goals and a structured time frame. These programs include
The Otago Exercise Program, Stepping On, and Tai Chi among many others.
The Otago Exercise Program was developed in New Zealand and adopted by
the CDC. It is an individual program of muscle strengthening and balance
exercises prescribed by a physical therapist. It is designed to target
older adults (aged 80+) living at home who have fallen in the last year
or have muscle weakness and balance difficulties due to multiple factors.
The physical therapist will individualize the program and transition the
client to doing it independently in their home. Engaging in this program
over a long duration of 52 weeks has been proven to reduce falls by 35%
Starting January 9th Marcus Daly Rehabilitation Center is offering a four week “Balance
for You” exercise program. Balance exercises can help prevent falls
and avoid the disability that may result from falling. Each year, more
than 2 million older Americans go to the emergency room because of fall-related
injuries. Join us for the next four weeks, on Tuesday and Thursday from
12 pm to 1 pm, we want to safely help you improve your balance, flexibility,
and strength. Space is limited, call 406-375-4570 to register.
This health column is brought to you by Marcus Daly Rehabilitation Services.
It is never too late to get physical, occupational and or speech therapies.
For additional information, questions and or comments, please contact
Travis Williams DPT, Marcus Daly Rehabilitation Center at Marcus Daly
Memorial Hospital, 1200 Westwood Drive, Hamilton MT 59840. Working together
to build a healthier community!