How Physical Therapy Can Help with Balance and Fall Prevention in Older Adults

Unfortunately, when it comes to seniors, falls are relatively a common occurrence. However, physical therapy can help older adults recover from a fall and then prevent future falls. At Therapeutic Potentials, Inc. (TPI), experienced physical therapists help seniors decrease their risk of a fall by teaching them exercises to increase their lower body strength and improve their overall balance.

The Prevalence of Falls in the Senior Community

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), every year:

  • Nearly 40 million older adults fall, and 32,000 of these falls are fatal.
  • Approximately 3 million seniors receive treatment in emergency rooms to address injuries resulting from a fall.
  • 300,000 seniors are hospitalized for a fractured hip.

In general:

  • Women fall more frequently than men do, accounting for ¾ of all hip fractures.
  • Most hip fractures are sustained due to a fall, frequently from falling sideways.
  • One of every five falls results in an injury (e.g., a head injury or broken bones).

Preventing Falls Is Crucial, Especially for Seniors

Approximately 40% of nursing home admissions occur due to a fall. Furthermore, almost half of these seniors end up living out the rest of their lives in the facility, never actually returning home.

Nonetheless, a senior’s chance of surviving after a fall and returning home increases by 80% when he or she seeks medical assistance, which typically includes physical therapy.

What Causes Seniors To Fall?

Research indicates that numerous conditions contribute to a senior falling. Although the risk factors are many, physical therapy can decrease a senior’s risk of falling.

Risk factors for falling include:

  • Balance issues
  • Problems walking (physical)
  • Weakness in the lower body
  • Difficulty seeing
  • Wearing poorly designed footwear (e.g., lacks traction)
  • Foot pain
  • Walking around in shoes or slippers that do not fit properly
  • Low levels of vitamin D (i.e., a vitamin D deficiency)
  • Medications (e.g., sedatives, tranquilizers and antidepressants)

Hazards or dangers in the home:

  • Unsecured throw rugs
  • Uneven or broken steps
  • Clutter on the floor or steps

The physical therapist at TPI uses a screening tool to identify the patient’s risk factors. Once the patient’s Fall Assessment is complete, the physical therapist creates a personalized treatment plan to help the patient improve the areas that put him or her at risk of falling (e.g., balance issues, a weak lower body).

How Physical Therapy Can Help With Balance and Fall Prevention in Older Adults

Physical therapy helps seniors increase their mobility and improve their lower body strength, so they can maintain their balance. Better balance reduces the likelihood of a fall.

Physical therapy treatments include:

  1. Strength training programs – these programs are designed to increase the patient’s muscle strength to help improve his or her overall stability.
  2. Balance assessment and targeted exercises – the physical therapist creates a balance-training program based on the patient’s assessment. These exercises concentrate on improving the patient’s balance.
  3. Flexibility training – with this training, the patient’s flexibility improves, helping reduce the risk of a fall due to stiff, tight muscles.
  4. Gait trainingphysical therapists help seniors improve their walking patterns.
  5. Fall prevention education – seniors and their caregivers receive information about ways to prevent falls and reduce the risks that could result in a fall.

If you are in the Bradenton, Sarasota or Lakewood Ranch, Florida, area, and need assistance recovering from a fall and reducing your risk of another fall, please call Therapeutic Potentials, Inc., today at 941-758-3140 or click here to use our online form.

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