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Senior Citizen's Guide to Washington County (PA)

Slow and STEADI: Preventing Falls in Older Adults

STEADI as a Rock: A Toolkit for Wellness

“STEADI” means “Stopping Elderly Accidents, Deaths and Injuries”. This is a checklist for physicians to assess a patient’s risk for falling.

The toolkit includes information about falls, case studies, gait and balance assessments, and a fall risk checklist. Educational handouts are also available for patients.

The doctor will assess you by taking a Timed Up and Go (TUG) test for people age 65 and older. A TUG test involves getting up from sitting in a chair, walking to a line on the floor at a normal pace, turning and walking back to your chair, and sitting down again.

If it takes an older adult more than 12 seconds to complete this task, they are considered at high risk for falling. Your doctor should observe your posture, stability, gait, stride length and sway.

Thanks to advances in medicine, people are living longer than ever before. While longevity is considered a blessing for many older adults, it can also render those frail or weak prone to injury. However, patients and caregivers can be proactive by collaborating with physicians on a care plan to prevent falls.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in three adults age 65 or older fall each year, but less than half discuss this with their healthcare providers. Falls are the leading cause of both fatal and nonfatal injuries for older Pennsylvanians, according to the state’s Department of Aging and Health. The U.S. economic impact from this is estimated at $30 billion per year as those severely injured usually end up in nursing homes or assisted living.

There are many precipitating factors that contribute to falls in older adults. As we age, our bodies weaken and our reflexes slow down. The effects of aging can lead to arthritis, osteoporosis or Parkinson’s. The medications people take to manage these chronic conditions may come with side effects such as insomnia or dizziness, which may contribute to falls.

Moreover, common dangers around the house include furniture. Coffee tables rank among the top items that contribute to falls – from hitting one’s head on the table, which can lead to traumatic brain injury. Clutter around the house or poor lighting also increases the chance for falls. While there are many causes of such accidents, there are practical things people can do to modify the risks.

Communicating with your doctor is the single most important thing to do during yearly exams. Your doctor should ask if you’ve had a fall in the last 12 months. If they do not ask, then you should tell them if you’ve had a fall in the last year. Your doctor should also perform a fall risk assessment and discuss health concerns that may contribute to potential falls. When you meet with your doctor, have your vision checked to see if you need a new prescription for glasses and ask them to review your list of medications and make adjustments if there are drugs that make you dizzy or lightheaded.

Exercise is one of the best ways to prevent fall related injuries. For example, resistance training can help improve muscle strength and coordination, thereby significantly reducing the risk of injury. A good fall prevention exercise program will also include exercises for posture and flexibility. For those with difficulty standing for prolonged periods, many of these exercises can be adapted for the chair.

If your house or apartment presents a danger due to the way it’s furnished, rearrange the household items to make a clearer path when walking between rooms. There are many bathroom and home safety kits that can also help with stability. Some safety items may even be covered under some insurance plans. If throw rugs tend to bunch up or slip when you walk, secure them with double sided tape. Make sure handrails near steps are secure. Consider purchasing a good pair of walking shoes with proper treading. For those with balance issues, a cane can help stabilize and prevent falls. There are many different types of canes with varying grips and tips to choose from, so ask your doctor for suggestions.

What to Do If You Fall
Stay calm and remain still for a few moments to stabilize yourself. If you think you can get up safely, roll onto your side and get up slowly using your hands and knees or to a sitting position. If you are hurt or can’t get up on your own, ask someone for help or call 9-1-1.
For those who live by themselves, it may be wise to invest in an emergency at-home response system, so if you need emergency assistance at any time, help is as close as the push of a button. Today’s emergency response devices are subtle and worn like a necklace or bracelet.

Article provided by Gateway HealthSM,



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