To your health: Fall prevention and its importance
Now that autumn is here, the wind blows crisper and the leaves start to fall. Now is a fine time of year to review ways to reduce the chances of having the same fate as the falling leaves. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), three million older adults are cared for in emergency departments every year due to fall-related injuries, and nearly one million require a hospitalization. Approximately one in five accidental falls leads to serious injury, such as a major fracture, life threatening bleed or head injury, and falls can lead to lasting disability that requires a stay at a long-term health facility. For those living on Block Island, a fall may force an unwanted move to the mainland if it results in less independence or a need for a higher level of care.
Fortunately, there’s plenty we can do both to help prevent falls and to reduce the chance of a serious injury resulting from one. There’s no better place to start than looking at how we can make our homes safer. The first room in our homes to make fall safe is the bathroom, which is considered the most dangerous room in the house for falls. Be sure the pathway to your bathroom is well lit, so you can see where you’re walking during nighttime trips to the bathroom.
Further, remove any throw rugs, as they are generally unsteady, easily tripped over, and significantly increase the risk of falls.
The most significant injury-causing falls tend to occur when standing up from the toilet and while in the shower. Some seniors may find it difficult to lower and raise themselves from toilets that are too low to the ground. Raised toilet seats, which can increase the height of the toilet by three to four inches, are readily available and can ease transitions from sitting to standing. Additionally, installing a grab bar both by the toilet and in the shower can be very useful in maintaining balance during these higher risk activities. Lastly, in addition to grab bars, shower chairs with rubber tips that prevent chair sliding can significantly reduce the chances of an accidental fall and injury while showering.
Just as important as maintaining the safety of our homes is maintaining our own health and wellness. Here at the Block Island Medical Center we offer regular Wellness and Risk Reduction and Physical Therapy sessions, where you can work on key balance and core strength exercises that will help reduce the risk of suffering a fall.
We encourage you to make an appointment with us so we can evaluate your balance and strength and risk of falling in order to take preventive measures such as enrolling you in either our PT or Risk Reduction/Wellness Program or both.
Another factor to keep in mind when talking about falls is osteoporosis. Thinning bones, known as osteoporosis, is common and may make a fall far more dangerous because it makes fractures more likely. Since we are no longer getting the same summer sun exposure which normally provides Vitamin D through the skin, it may be helpful to check your vitamin D levels and supplement if needed. The United States Prevention Task Force recommends regular bone density screening for women after menopause, to see if you might benefit from treatment for osteoporosis or osteopenia.
From these few simple steps and considerations, together we can improve our overall wellness and make our homes safer to reduce our chances of falling and needing care off the island.
We are always here at the Block Island Medical Center for all your health needs, and hope you have a wonderful autumn.
Medical Content edited by Mark Clark, MD; Medical Director Block Island Medical Center.