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1 in 3 seniors fall each year PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, June 06, 2013 12:06 AM

BY STEPHANIE GROVES

Staff Writer

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DELPHOS — A report from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that each year, one in every three adults age 65 and older falls. Falls cause moderate to severe injuries, such as hip fractures and head injuries, which can increase the risk of early death.

In 2010, emergency departments treated 2.3 million older adults for nonfatal fall injuries and more than 662,000 of these patients were hospitalized. Of those who fall, 20-30 percent suffer moderate to severe injuries such as lacerations, hip fractures or head traumas, which makes it difficult for an individual to get around or live independently.

Falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries (TBI) and bone fractures — spine, hip, forearm, leg, ankle, pelvis, upper arm and hand — among older adults. Many people who fall, even if they are not injured, develop a fear of falling. This fear may cause them to limit their activities, which leads to reduced mobility and loss of physical fitness and in turn, increases their actual risk of falling.

Licensed physical therapist and developer and presenter of PARK (Parkinson’s Activity and Rehabilitation Klinic) Robert Kann said that as people get older, their balance is not the same and each person’s body ages differently. With balance issues, there are signs to look for. If it’s a spouse, parent, or grandparent and they are taking a spill two to three times per week consistently, there is a strong possibility there may be an undiagnosed medical condition which demands a doctor’s attention.

“Awareness and safety measures are key,” Kann explained.

To reduce the risks associated with falling, Kann describes some safety measures to treat the environment and prevent falls. Clearly define pathways by avoiding clutter, furniture that limits normal pathways and slippery or bunched up floor throw rugs. Re-think pet ownership since pets and their feeding/watering containers are easy to trip over and leashes can get tangled with the owner’s legs. Since many people are half asleep when getting up at night to use the bathroom, use night lights throughout the house to ease walking in darkened areas. Darkness can cause disorientation, which in turn, might decrease coordination and cause a fall.

“Because of water being a factor, the bathroom is one of the most dangerous rooms in the house.” Kann said.

Prior to any balance issues or falls, Kann recommends installing bathroom grab bars inside and outside the shower, using a non-slip tub mat and sitting down while drying off or dressing. If there are existing balance issues, adaptive equipment — a bath bench, hand-held shower head, raised toilet seat and rails — will be instrumental in maintaining safety.

Kann explained that problems with balance can occur when there is a neurological disruption or pain in the lower extremities. Abnormalities in balance function may indicate a wide range of pathologies from causes like inner-ear (vestibular) disorders, low blood pressure, brain tumors and brain injury, including stroke.

Inner-ear disorders can affect spatial and non-spatial functions such as object-recognition memory and processes of attention.

“Diseases such as osteoporosis, which affects the spine, can alter the individual’s center of gravity leading to equilibrium issues,” Kann detailed. “Pain associated with arthritis can also cause a decrease in balance when they favor one side of their body.”

Another facet to take into consideration is mental health. Depression can affect an individual after retirement, recuperating from an injury or losing a loved one. It is very important for people not to close themselves off from the world, feel very “down” for a long period of time and become inactive. If symptoms persist, family members should intervene and help make an appointment for an intervention with a family doctor.

It is also pertinent to keep moving and still have goals and develop an exercise regiment. Staying inside during the winter and using exercise equipment — treadmills and bikes — is a great idea. When weather permits, people should walk outside so that they may gauge, maintain and improve their balance systems. It is a little more of a challenge, rather than holding onto the bars of a treadmill or sitting in the seat of an exercise bike.

“Do not sit in front of the television all day,” Kann said. “Get out of the house, keep active and socialize.

One option is to join a local fitness program. SilverSneakers is a fun, energizing program that helps older adults take greater control of their health by encouraging physical activity and offering social events. It is the nation’s leading fitness program providing innovative health benefits. Today more than 40 Medicare health plans offer the program as a benefit to members across the nation.

In Delphos, Licensed Athletic Trainer (L.A.T.), Shelley Kreeger, holds hour-long group sessions on Monday and Wednesday at 10 a.m. and on Tuesday and Thursday at 1 p.m. at Peak 24HR Fitness at 333 N. State St. The training focuses on member’s functionality by concentrating on coordination, balance, endurance and strength.

“People in the classes are just like family to me,” she delighted. “We have a lot of fun, in the process.”

The program has proven to have a huge impact on both the members and insurance companies—rates have dropped and it keeps them [seniors] out of the hospital. Kreeger attributes the significant decrease in injuries from falls to the program’s success.

If physical therapy is needed, Vancrest Healthcare Center offers outpatient sessions where therapist can determine whether patients require assistive devices or home healthcare. Therapists will assess the patients’ home for environmental factors which may need changed to ensure the individual’s safety while living at home.

For more information or to join SilverSneakers, visit silversneakers.com or call toll-free 888-423-4632 8 a.m. - 8 p.m. EST Monday through Friday.

 

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