At Family Foot & Ankle Center, we work with people of all ages, from infants to octogenarians (and sometimes beyond). For our older patients, one of the most important goals is to remain independent and mobile, and to that end, a good fall prevention strategy is absolutely essential.
As we age, our bodies undergo a number of changes that frequently push us toward greater instability on our feet. Muscles weaken. Feet become painful and sore. Eyesight and hearing dim. Certain medications or conditions can impair balance.
Falls are a growing concern. Consider these stats from the Centers for Disease Control:
- Approximately 1 out of every 3 American adults (more than 14 million people) over age 65 will experience a fall this year, with the rate increasingly steadily with age.
- Every year, 2.5 million Americans will be treated in emergency departments, 700,000 will be hospitalized, and 20,000 will die as a result of a fall.
- Falls are the leading cause of both fatal and nonfatal injuries in seniors.
Furthermore, the costs are high. About one fifth of falls cause a serious injury, such as broken bones or a traumatic brain injury. Some can even be fatal, and even if they aren’t many seniors never fully recover to pre-fall levels. Loss of strength and fitness during recovery periods can permanently reduce activity levels and accelerate a permanent decline in health, mobility, and independence.
Preventing Falls and Keeping Your Independence
First things first: if you’ve fallen before, almost fallen, or are worried about your balance, don’t wait until it happens (or happens again)—go see our team right away! We’ll perform a risk assessment examination and talk about your symptoms, any medications you’re taking, your health status, and from that piece together a fall prevention strategy that makes sense for you. We can also refer you to another specialist, such as an occupational therapist or ophthalmologist, depending on your needs.
Common components of a fall prevention program may include:
- Treatment for any painful foot issues that may be contributing to your imbalance, such as bunions, hammertoes, flat feet, or just general foot pain.
- Fitting for a balance brace. These are ankle-foot orthoses (AFOs) that are worn regularly to provide extra stability to the ankles and prevent devastating falls. They fit around your foot, ankle, and lower leg, hidden discreetly under pants and inside shoes.
- Regular physical activity, including ankle strengthening and balance exercises. Remember, balance is a skill that can be practiced and improved regardless of age.
- Treatment for other medical conditions that could increase your risk of falls, including vision and hearing loss.
- Making sure you eat a healthy diet and drink plenty of water—this will help you stay energized and prevent dizziness.
Additionally, one of the best ways to minimize fall risk at home is to create a safe environment for yourself. That includes:
- Keeping your home brightly lit when you’re there.
- Cleaning excess clutter and removing obstacles that could cause tripping.
- Installing handrails, grab bars, or non-skid mats in bathrooms, kitchens, and any other locations that might be slippery and/or require transitions from sitting to standing.
- Placing everyday items within easy reach—you shouldn’t have to reach or strain to grab clothes, cooking supplies, utensils, etc.
Far too many people don’t plan to prevent falls until it’s already too late. Don’t be one of them! Keeping your feet steady on the ground is one of the best ways not only to prevent serious injury in later life, but to maintain your activity, healthy, and independence for as long as possible. For help developing a fall prevention strategy, please see the experts at Family Foot & Ankle Center today. You can set an appointment for one of our six offices in and around Cincinnati by dialing 888-689-3317.