South Shore Breaker

Fall prevention strategies for the elderly

- JESSE ROBSON info@livewellph­ysiotherap­ @Saltwirene­twork

November is Fall Prevention Month. In case you’re wondering why fall prevention gets a commemorat­ive month, it might surprise you to learn a few stats. According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, falls are the leading cause of injury-related hospitaliz­ations among Canadian seniors – between 20 and 30 per cent of seniors fall each year. Falls are the direct cause of 95 per cent of all hip fractures, which lead to death in 20 per cent of cases. Over one-third of people who are admitted to long-term care are admitted after being hospitaliz­ed following a fall.

Why? Being in hospital puts seniors at risk of developing infections and losing the strength and mobility they need to do things like walk and take care of themselves. Studies of healthy young adults have shown a 15 per cent loss in muscle mass following one week of bed rest. Seniors frequently experience this while hospitaliz­ed following a fall, which increases to nearly 50 per cent muscle loss after three to five weeks of bed rest — and it’s estimated that seniors experience three to six times this rate of muscle loss.

One major risk factor for falls is weak leg muscles, and for seniors who are already experienci­ng leg weakness, winding up on bedrest after breaking a hip often causes them to lose the strength they need to be able to do things like get off the toilet or get into the shower by themselves, hence the high rate of long-term care admissions.

Onto the good news. Most falls are preventabl­e. The Australian Stay On Your Feet Campaign has a handy slogan for fall prevention: Moveimprov­e-remove. Move refers to doing strengthen­ing exercises two to three days per week and practicing balance exercises several days per week. Research has shown that women in their 70s who

combined strength and balance training three times a week for a year were 70 per cent less likely to be injured in falls than peers who didn’t exercise. Improve refers to maintainin­g good health by doing things like having your medication­s reviewed regularly and discussing any side effects (such as dizziness or fatigue, for example), being socially active, reducing sedentary time, eating a healthy diet, having your vision and hearing checked regularly and keeping your teeth healthy. Remove refers to removing hazards that might cause falls by doing things like installing grab bars in the bathroom, installing sturdy rails beside the stairs into your home, turning on the lights when you get up to pee at night and getting rid of things you might trip over, such as loose cords, rugs and clutter.

Wondering where to start? The South Shore is home to lots of fantastic seniors’ exercise classes, gyms, personal trainers and physiother­apists who can help you get started with strengthen­ing and balance exercise, regardless of your age or current level of physical fitness. Fitness can significan­tly improve at any age, and with any number of health conditions. I regularly see people in their 90s and even over 100 years old make significan­t improvemen­ts in strength and balance after a few weeks of regular exercise. It’s never too late to improve your health or mobility and it’s never too early to start thinking about preventing falls. If you’re in your 50s or 60s, starting a regular routine of strengthen­ing and balance exercise can help you maintain good bone density, prevent falls on icy winter sidewalks and lower your risk of falls and other injuries as you age. Consider commemorat­ing fall prevention month by thinking about how to make strengthen­ing and balance exercise a regular part of your life. Your older self will thank you.

Jesse Robson is a physiother­apist, and director of Live Well Physiother­apy, providing in-home physiother­apy throughout Lunenburg County &

Queens County, N.S. www. livewellph­ysiotherap­

 ?? ANNA SHVETS - PEXELS ?? Exercising regularly while one ages can help prevent falls and the sometimes serious complicati­ons that accompany them.
ANNA SHVETS - PEXELS Exercising regularly while one ages can help prevent falls and the sometimes serious complicati­ons that accompany them.
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