Falls are the most common cause of injury in the United States, particularly among older adults.Â Whether it's a slip on wet or icy pavement or a trip on a rug or stairway, the risk of bruises, broken bones and back and head injuries is significant.
"Most people fall due of a lack of attention, rushing around or accidental situations, but some individuals are actually at greater risk for falling," said Joseph Caccavo, physical therapist at Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation (www.kessler-rehab.com).Â "Older adults, as well as those with a history of low blood pressure, stroke or neurological disorders, vision deficits or balance problems, as well as those taking certain medications, all face greater challenges."
The good news is that there are ways to minimize the risk of falling by making simple changes around the home and workplace, and improving balance with proper training and exercise.
"Clutter is a way of life for many of us, but it's something we can control.Â Similarly, we have the tools to effectively evaluate and treat individuals who have balance disorders to help minimize their risk of falling and optimize their quality of life," explained Kessler physical therapist Michelle O'Keefe.Â "In fact, the Department of Health and Human Services recommends that older adults include balance exercises as part of an overall fitness program."
Kessler's new Fall Prevention Program (www.kessler-rehab.com/programs/outpatient-services/falls.com) draws on the expertise and experience of an interdisciplinary team of licensed physical, occupational and speech therapists, including certified cognitive, vision and vestibular specialists, to determine fall risk and develop individualized treatment plans.
"Our goal is to help individuals maintain balance in their lives, at home, at work and at play," added Kessler occupational therapist Norma Glennon.
Â To help reduce the risk of slips, trips and falls and improve balance, Kessler Institute offers the following recommendations:
Be sure flooring is in good condition and remove throw rugs.
Clear stairs, hallways and rooms of clutter and other obstacles.
Secure or remove any electrical wires or cords.
Make sure lighting is adequate both inside and outside the home - especially on stairways. Install automatic light sensors, timers or night lights.
Place a telephone in each room or carry a cordless phone with you to avoid having to rush to answer a call.
Avoid sitting in rockers, swivel chairs and chairs with wheels.
Be sure railings and banisters are secure.
Install hand rails or grip bars in showers and bathtubs and place non-slip strips or decals on the floor/tub. Â Also use a rubber-backed bath mat when you step out.
Take extra precautions on uneven, wet, or icy pavements.
Reduce attentional demands and on focus on the activity at hand.
Include balance exercises in your fitness regimen, such as one-leg stands and sit-to-stand exercises, as well as exercises to build ankle, leg, and hip strength.
Individuals who are experiencing problems with balance, dizziness or falling should be examined by a physician.