By: Les Tainter
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, falls are one of the leading causes of fatal injury and hospitalization for senior adults. One in four Americans aged 65+ fall each year. Every 11 seconds an older adult is treated in the Emergency Room for a fall; every 19 minutes an older adult will die from a fall. With falls to senior adults so dangerous and so common, how do we prevent them from happening?
The first key to fall prevention is improving balance. Consult your physician or physical therapist to explore exercises that are appropriate for improving balance. Many of these exercises use common household items such as chairs or stairs to strengthen the core muscles and other muscle groups involved in maintaining balance. If you want to stay upright, you must maintain and improve your balance.
Weakness, especially in the lower extremities is directly responsible for most falls. The legs simply “giving out” on the senior adult from a lack of strength puts many seniors on the floor. Your physician or physical therapist can provide some simple exercises that are appropriate for you to accomplish in the home. Strength training does not require a trip to the gym, but it does require persistent and regular exercise to help eliminate falls. The CDC states: “50 hours of exercise, (2 times weekly for one hour for 25 weeks is needed before fall incident rates are lowered significantly”.
RANGE OF MOTION
One of the simplest and perhaps effective of the 3 keys to reducing falls is to increase range of motion. Stretching is one of the most commonly overlooked daily activities for many senior adults. The shoulders, arms, wrists, hands, back, hips, and legs all benefit from regular stretching. One of the most effective methods of stretching is following a shower or bath when the body’s muscles are warm and easier to stretch. This allows further stretching with less pain and discomfort. By eliminating a limited range of motion falls can be prevented.
Those senior adults who choose to use these 3 keys to fall prevention can greatly lessen their chance of becoming one of those fall statistics. Again, it is important to consult with your physician and/or physical therapist to be sure the exercise you choose is safe and effective for your specific goals for preventing falls. Each of these 3 keys can be accomplished in the safety and security of a home without purchasing any expensive equipment. These keys can be effective for those senior adults who wish not to fall, (or fall again), and see their overall health decline from the injury and the subsequent therapy and treatment from dangerous falls. Confidence and Longevity can be the “treasures” unlocked by these 3 simple keys.