Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Head-to-Toe Risks for Falls

Photo by sheilaz413

People will mention that a parent or grandparent has starting falling with frequency.  The cause for such falls can be manifold.  The older adult should see a professional for an assessment since the cause might be difficult for the individual or the caregiver to discern. If the person has fallen twice in six months, it's a problem that needs professional intervention.  

The CDC reports multiple statistics about falls, including this: "Among older adults (those 65 or older), falls are the leading cause of injury death. They are also the most common cause of nonfatal injuries and hospital admissions for trauma" (emphasis added).

One of the most effective means of fall prevention is activity, including strength-bearing exercises that help the muscles, joints, and bones work properly. Home modifications can decrease risk, too. However, falls can have causes that cannot be addressed through a fitness regime. 

Here is a list, organized head-to-to, for some of the more common causes for falls:

Cognition Problems:
Drug’s side effects or skipping medication
Polypharmacy (taking four or more medications)
Slowing reaction time

Vision Problems:
Needing new glasses
Inability to judge distances

Gastero-Intestinal Problems:
Low-blood Sugar from diabetes/hypoglycemia
Alcohol intake

Cardiovascular / Respiratory Problems:
Low-blood pressure (postural hypotention)
Arrythmia and other heart problems

Joint / Muscle Problems
Arthritis in hands, hips, legs
Hip replacement
Knee replacement
Muscle wasting from inactivity
Parkinson’s disease

Foot Problems:
Poor foot care
Ill-fitting shoes

Complex Factors:
Some risks are a combination of changes in many of these body systems, resulting in a change in cognition, sensing, balance and gait—such as when someone suffers a stroke or if they accrue several age-related problems in the body such as diabetes, arthritis, and polypharmacy.   Or a single problem, such as syncope (the loss of consciousness) can have multiple causes, such as heart problems.  Again, see your physician to accurately pinpoint the cause for falling.

External Problems:
Some risks for falling are external to the body, such as poor lighting, clutter on the floor, a wet floor or even household pets that get underfoot.   Change the environment to reduce risks and also add grab bars and increase the height of toilets and chairs. 


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