Age is no barrier to staying active!
It has been suggested that as we get older, we should slow down, take it easy and do less – but the reality is, the more we do, the better we feel. To keep our physical and mental health, we need to stay active. Regardless of your age, ability, weight, or health condition, you can still be active in some way. However, as we get older, the risk of falls increases as well.
Among the elderly community, specifically Australians aged 65 years and above, falls are the leading cause of injury and hospital admissions. The statistics highlight this growing issue, as one in four elderly people will sustain a fall each year with 40% having multiple falls each year. Also statistically women have a greater risk of falling than males. The cost to the health system is substantial, with the cost exceeding $100 million. This figure is continually rising due the ageing population in Australia.
Commonly resulting from a fall, an elderly person can sustain a head, forearm and hip injury. Often the fall will result in a bone fracture which sometimes require surgery but will always have a period of immobility to allow for recovery. This can ultimately lead to secondary changes that compound their health and rehabilitation.
The reason an elderly person falls will vary from person to person and often a multifactorial approach is necessary. Among a leading cause of falls in the elderly is the change to their musculoskeletal system. Specifically this refers to a decrease in their balance, mobility and gait, and muscle weakness. Unfortunately with age this system progressively worsens as the muscles become weaker and their reaction times are slower. Compounding this are changes to the neurological system, both the central and peripheral, and the functional capacity of the cardiovascular system is far less than they were younger. Other factors associated with falls include illness or disease, visual impairment, medication, urinary incontinence and environmental factors. Another strong factor is an elderly person will often live a more sedentary life due to the strong fear of having a fall. This will continue to negatively affect their risk factors that will increase the likelihood of a fall.
Here is a short list of some of the most common risk factors:
- Poorer eyesight
- Worse balance, weaker muscles, or stiffer joints
- Less feeling in the feet and legs
- Slower reaction times
- Difficulty concentrating on several things at once
- Stroke, Parkinson’s disease and arthritis
- Depression and Dementia
- Postural Hypertension (low blood pressure)
- Poor Nutrition
- Even short term illnesses, such as the flu, can worsen the risk factors.
Programs have been successful in reducing the incidence of falls among the elderly. The strength of these programs is addressing the factors of the falls that can be improved or changed. The first step is to identify baseline measures of their strength, balance and mobility. Also of importance is to understand their perceived functional capacity and if they have goals apart from reducing their incidence of falling. This will allow the correct prescription of exercises that will have the greatest impact on their functionality and reduction in falls. If the exercises can show that link to improving their functional capacity and progress accordingly, the elderly person will be more incline to comply with the program and continue the exercises in the future. Continuing the exercise well into their future is an important aspect of each program because unfortunately the older we get the higher the risk of having a fall.
Coastal Physiotherapy and Sports Injury Clinic has recently implemented the Otago Falls Prevention program aimed specially to reduce the incidence of falls among the elderly. The message and evidence is clear: Prevent falls by early risk management and intervention. Don’t what for yourself or your parents to fall: Act now and get the right exercises. The Otago Falls Prevention Program was designed specifically to prevent falls. It consists of a set of leg muscle strengthening and balance retraining exercises progressing in difficulty, and a walking plan.
We offer a Home program, where our physios will come out the patient; or a discounted, In-house program, where the patient visits our clinic and our physios treat them here. Our physiotherapy team is experienced, understanding, and experienced, helping you to regain mobility and independence.
So if you feel that you, or one of your loved ones may be at risk, or displaying any of these risk factors, don’t hesitate to contact us today, and resolve the problem before a fall does occur.