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Call today! 541-954-2602

Your Personal Senior Living Advisor

Serving Eugene, Springfield and outlying areas

When I worked as a physical therapist at Home Health, many of my patients were older adults recovering from hip fractures. Missing a step on the stairs, slipping on a wet floor, or tripping over a throw rug were some of the more common causes for their falls. However, many falls don’t result purely from environmental factors; rather, they’re due to poor balance. And no one loses their balance without a good reason. 


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Let's talk numbers 
30 million adults fall every year.
3 million adults are treated every year for fall injuries.
300,000 older people (age 65+) are hospitalized for hip fractures every year.
30,000 adults die annually as a result of a fall.

Falls and hip fractures
95% of all hip fractures are caused by falling (usually by falling sideways).
Women suffer 3/4 of all hip fractures.
⅓ of adults aged 50+ who suffer a hip fracture die within 12 months.
Falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries.
Other common injuries from falls include shoulder fractures, wrist fractures, compression fractures, spinal cord injuries.

Increased death risk after hip fracture is due to
Surgery (complications)
Internal bleeding
Heart or brain pulmonary embolism
Heart failure

Long-term consequences of hip fractures
Loss of physical function (mobility)
Decrease in social engagement
Increased dependence
Decreased quality of life


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What can YOU do to reduce your risk of falling? 

If you are a white female over sixty-five with a history of prior falls, you are at higher risk of experiencing more falls. Unfortunately, there is nothing you can do about your gender, age, and race. But other risk factors are indeed under your control. In these cases, there’s a lot you can do to prevent falls:

Are you taking more than four medications?
Your family physician should review your medications every six months. The practice of de-prescribing medications is being promoted among physicians and may be just as important as prescribing medications. Taking a multitude of medicines increases your chance of adverse cross-reactions. You should ask your doctor if there are non-pharmaceutical ways to address some of your health issues. 

Impaired sensation in your feet 
When you have poor feeling in the bottom of your feet, important sensory signals are not being transmitted to the rest of your body. Due to this lack of information, the rest of your body can’t properly react to its environment, resulting in poor balance. The solution? Wear comfortable, supportive shoes with a wide base of support and no high heels.

Impaired vision and hearing
Poor sight and hearing lowers your ability to react to your surroundings. That’s why it’s important to get yearly vision checks and have your glasses prescription adjusted when needed. Likewise, get your hearing tested and wear a hearing aid if prescribed.
And as for your home environment, ensure there is adequate lighting at your driveway, porch, and in every room in your house.

Low blood pressure 
Low blood pressure can cause sudden dizziness when changing position: lying down to sitting, sitting to standing, etc. What can you do?
Don't move fast! Stand up slowly; if you’re feeling dizzy, wait a few seconds until the sensation passes.
Ask your physician to review your medications; if they lower your blood pressure too low, they may need to be adjusted.
Drink plenty of fluids. Dehydration decreases your blood volume and leads to low blood pressure.

If you suffer from incontinence, you may be at risk of falling because you rush to the bathroom. The urge to urinate can cause you to “run” to the bathroom less carefully than you should. 
The solution: 
Wear protection (a pad or Depends) to lower the stakes when you feel the urge to use the bathroom.
Go to the bathroom on a schedule of every 3-4 hours, depending on your needs.

Impaired cognition
People with dementia may not interact with their environments with the care they need. In this case, have the person wear "hipsters" ("underwear" you wear over the underwear with padding at the hip area that can protect against hip fracture in the case of a fall). Additionally, use a motion alarm to let the caregiver know when the person is up and moving

Impaired strength, balance, and flexibility
Improving these elements can improve your ability to navigate your surroundings. How can you improve them? 
Ask your physician for a referral for physical therapy.
Keep active: go on a hike, exercise at the gym, take dancing lessons, etc.
Use an assistive device such as a cane or a walker as recommended by the physical therapist.

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Exercise, exercise, exercise
I know this is getting old, but what can I tell you? It’s the truth: 
exercising is the best way to maintain strong, flexible muscles. And high-performing muscles will help you stand erect and react quickly in the case that you do lose your balance. 
The problem is that most people have a hard time following exercise routines for a length of time. 
Here are some strategies  to help you get into the habit of exercising, other than the obvious step of signing up for a gym membership:
* Start slow: start with sitting exercises and gradually progress to standing and balancing exercises.

* Use weights or a Theraband for resistance.
* Search online for exercise instructions that suit you. 
* Combine endurance and strength exercises: aerobic (on land and water), tennis, pickleball, stationary bikes, etc.
* Make exercise fun: go on walks and hikes, dance, and exercise with a group of friends.
Make exercise part of your daily or weekly routine: set days and times for exercising. 

What else can be done?
50% of seniors’ falls occur at home. Home safety assessment and home modification should be done by a physical therapist or an occupational therapist. 

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