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Falls in the elderly can be prevented: By Zainab Al-Obosi, MD
October 13, 2014

Falls in older persons are a common occurrence and are major factors threatening their independence.  As is the case for many conditions affecting the elderly, falls usually occur when body injuries or disorders compromise their ability to balance.

 

Many times, falls go without medical attention.  Reasons include patients never mentioning the event to a healthcare provider, there was no injury at the time of the fall, providers not asking the patient about a history of falls, and the provider or patient erroneously believes that falls are an inevitable part of the aging process.  Treatment of injuries resulting from a fall usually does not include an investigation as to the cause.

 

If risk factors are identified, falls in the elderly can often be prevented.

 

Risk factors for falls:

·         Past history of a fall - Patients who have sustained a hip fracture are at an increased risk of a second hip fracture

·         Lower extremity weakness

·         Age

·         Female gender

·         Cognitive impairment - Maintaining family and friendship social networks may reduce the risk of falls among seniors

·         Balance problems

·         Psychotropic drug use

·         Arthritis

·         History of a stroke

·         Orthostatic and postural hypotension

 

How falls can be prevented:

  • Exercise - Including gait and balance training, strength training, flexibility, movement (such as Tai Chi or dance) and general physical activity.
  • Medication modification
  • Vitamin D supplementation
  • Environment /assistive technology - Home safety assessment and interventions can decrease the rate of falls.  These are most effective for individuals at higher fall risk and delivered by an occupational therapist.  Non-slip devices worn on shoes in winter weather conditions can also decrease the rate of falls in the outdoors

 

What to do if a fall occurs:

  • Report recurrent (two or more) falls
  • Report difficulties with gait or balance
  • Seek medical attention or visit the emergency department because of a fall

 

With these tips, it is my hope that falls are prevented and an independent lifestyle is maintained.  Please be safe because you are precious to the lives of those around you!

 

Dr. Zainab Al-Obosi is a family practitioner at Madison Family Health in London. To make an appointment, call 740-845-7500.

 

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London, Ohio 43140
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