This is the time of year when seniors are most at risk of falls. Icy steps and sidewalks, slippery wet leaves, cold weather slowing reaction time and often poor light hiding treacherous outdoor conditions. So far we’ve been lucky in 2011, at least in the lower mainland, with relatively warm, albeit wet, weather and not to much of the dreaded ice about. But seniors 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the Canadian population and the estimate is that around 1 in 3 will have at least 1 fall per year. So should we be focusing on preventing falls? Seems like a good idea especially amongst those members of the senior population who are higher than average risk. They include:
- anyone who has already fallen in the past year
- anyone taking 4 or more prescription medications
- anyone with a history of stroke or diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease
- anyone who has problems with their balance
- being unable to stand from a chair without using the arms
But a research group from Simon Fraser University (SFU) here in Vancouver, BC is looking at innovative ways to prevent injury occuring from what they deem inevitable falls, falls that cost around 3 billion per year in related injuries. The researchers from the SFU Injury Prevention and Mobility lab are partnering with the Centre for Hip Health to move towards ideas that focus on injury prevention rather than just fall prevention. And the thinking is that technology can help. Already the team promotes a horseshoe shaped foam protector worn around the hip but how about a floor that has some bounce so that impact energy can be absorbed more effectively? The research is looking at multiple surfaces to find the combination that has sufficient give without itself becoming an impediment to balance and the early indications seem encouraging reducing hip fractures by as much as 80%. It is a great direction to be heading in but is a long way from becoming commonplace in the home. These suggestions can help make the home a safer environment:
- Improve home lighting, especially around stairs.
- Remove floor clutter that might cause you to trip.
- Make sure handrails are installed.
- Take up throw rugs or make sure they are well anchored down with double sided tape
- Use non slip mats in the bathtub and in the shower.
- Have grab bars installed next to the toilet and in the tub or shower.
Exercises that emphasize resistance training will strengthen bones. Exercises for balance will improve reaction time. You will find links to further information here. http://www.west4thphysio.com/archives/979
In addition, the Canadian Physiotherapy Association has prepared an excellent brochure on Fall Prevention which is available for download here. Feel free to send or tweet this on to anyone you think may benefit. http://www.west4thphysio.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/Fall-prevention.pdf