Falls are a major threat to the health and independence of older adults. Each year in the United States, nearly one-third of older adults experience a fall. One out of ten falls among older adults results in a serious injury, such as a hip fracture or head injury and are the leading cause of injury deaths. Limiting fall risk is key to maintaining independence and health as we age.
Fall Risk Factors
Fall risk factors increase with age and are usually associated with health and aging conditions. These factors include:
Biological risk factors:
- Mobility problems due to muscle weakness or balance problems
- Chronic health conditions such as arthritis and stroke
- Vision changes and vision loss (cataracts, glaucoma, macular degeneration
- Loss of sensation of feet (diabetes symptom)
Behavioral Risk Factors:
- Medications side effects and/or interactions
- Alcohol use
Environmental Risk Factors:
- Home and environmental hazards (clutter, poor lighting)
- Incorrect size, type, or use of assistive devices (walkers, canes, crutches)
Poorly designed public spaces
Usually, two or more of the above risk factors interact to cause a fall. For example, a person with macular degeneration trying to get to the bathroom at night in a dark, cluttered home has a high risk of tripping and falling and potentially breaking a hip.
Understanding these risk factors is the first step to reducing older adult falls. Many older adults, as well as their family members and caregivers, are unaware of factors or behaviors that put them at risk for falling and are also unaware of what actions they can take to reduce their risk.
A Skilled Home Healthcare Physical and/or Occupational Therapist can help. Effective fall interventions reduce fall risk factors through either exercise alone or by combining exercise with other risk reduction approaches such as medication review and management, vision screening and correction, education and a safer living environment.
If you or your loved one are at risk for falls or have fallen in the past, please be proactive. Contact your primary care physician and ask for a Home Health Care referral. The Physical Therapist will assess and treat potential lower extremity weakness, joint mobility and pain, balance and walking deficiencies and potential assistive device training. The Occupational Therapist will focus on upper body mobility and strength, activities of daily living (grooming, dressing, bathing safety, and execution), vision and bladder control strategies.
Skilled Home Health Care services also include Skilled Nursing (medication review and management), Speech Pathology experts (behavioral/swallowing issues), Medical Social Work (community resources) and Home Health Aide services (bathing/dressing assistance).
Medicare and Medicaid reimburse 100% of the cost to perform a fall risk assessment and subsequent therapy visits if needed. Most insurance companies might have a small visit co-pay attached.