ECareDiary.com Is It Possible to Fall Safely?

February 23, 2013 at 11:39 pm 1 comment

Please find below an article from http://www.ecarediary.com about the importance of learning how to fall safely as one ages… worth reading…   Note:  There are more and more fall prevention/fall safety programs being offered in communities around North America…

Is it Possible to Fall Safely?
Dr. Rein Tideiksaar – February 18, 2013 10:18 AM

A safety concern expressed by elders and caregivers alike is the threat of falling and injury. In an attempt to prevent falling, many elders at risk (due to balance and other mobility problems), tend to limit their everyday movements and activities. Caregivers may act in similar fashion, believing that limiting an elder’s daily activities is the best way to avoid harmful falls. While this strategy may work in the short-term, as a preventive strategy, it’s a really bad idea. If elders move around too little, they may suffer a host of harmful consequences, which can actually increase one’s risk of falling and injury:

• Muscle weakness
• Loss of balance
• Stiffness of knee/hip joints
• Decreased mobility
• Reduced bone strength (osteoporosis)
• Depression

While prevention is still the ‘best medicine’ to avoid falling, it’s unrealistic to think that every fall can be prevented, so it’s important to limit their complications.

The good news is that elders and their care givers can take steps to ‘fall safely’ and lessen the chances of injury when a fall does happen. The ability to fall safely can dramatically reduce the likelihood of a fall from becoming a life-altering tragedy.

Make it Safe to Move

Elder’s with good balance will catch themselves if they start to fall, while those individuals with poor balance will fall and, may even, injure themselves in the process. Strong muscles are the key to better balance and flexibility. And the best way to regain muscle strength and flexibility is by exercising.

When falling, your muscles (particularly in the butt, abdomen, hips and legs) tend to tighten.
By working these muscles, there’s a better chance of keeping your balance. Consequently, a program of strength training (using weights, resistance bands or body weight) and balancing exercises (such as standing on one leg at a time or standing on your toes) will help improve balance and avoid serious falls.

Before starting any exercise program, make sure to consult your doctor to see if you are healthy enough to do so. If you have mobility issues, a physical therapist can help you choose safe exercises and even supervise you. Lastly, get your bones tested to see if you have osteoporosis (decreased bone strength and the possibility of breaking a bone). If your bone strength is poor, the doctor can prescribe medications to make your bones stronger. Also, weight-bearing exercises such as walking can slow bone loss from osteoporosis.

Learn How to Fall

When a person starts to fall, it’s important to know what to do in order to avoid injury. What people tend to think is that there’s no time to do anything, but that’s not true. Some falls happen immediately, with little time to react (such as fainting or having a dizzy spell or slipping on ice). With most falls, however, a person has a split second from loss of balance to impact. This is usually enough time to put a fall strategy into practice. So it’s best to know how to fall safely in advance.

Breaking a hip often occurs when a person lands on his or her side. One maneuver to avoid such injury is to utilize the ‘parachutist’s strategy’, which involves crouching, leaning so that the outside of your leg hits first and then rolling onto your backside. Learning to fall like a skydiver can reduce the force of impact on the hip bone and the risk of fracture. Practice falling at home by falling off of a chair or a couch and keep doing it a few times until you perfect the fall.

Helping the Falling Elder

If you suspect someone is about to fall, often the best way to help is to allow them to fall safely in a controlled manner. It’s important to learn proper safety techniques, so that you don’t cause injury to yourself or the person. Following this step-by-step guide will lessen the chances of any injury.

Helping the Fallen Elder

About half of all elders who fall are unable to get up again (often referred to as long lies). Complications from lying on the floor for a long time afterward include the risk of pneumonia, pressure sores, dehydration, hypothermia, and even death. Risk increases with declining mobility (stroke, Parkinsonism, obesity, etc.). To avoid long lies, here are three useful strategies to consider:

How to Get Up

Here’s a step-by-step guide on ‘Getting Up From a Fall’

Inflatable Lifting Chair

This lifting chair is designed to lift the person up from the floor and move them in to a seated position. The chair can be used independently or with the aid of a caregiver.

Personal Emergency Response System

Personal Emergency Response Systems (PERS) are designed to let an elder call for help if they can’t get up following a fall. A PERS has three components: a small radio transmitter, a console connected to your telephone, and an emergency response center that monitors calls.

When you need help, you press the transmitter’s help button, which sends a signal to the console. The console automatically dials one or more emergency telephone numbers. Most PERS are programmed to telephone an emergency response center with a trained operator who will alert emergency personnel or contact a relative.

Gadgets to Prevent Injuries

Hip Protectors

Hip protectors (undergarments and outer garments with extra padding) are designed to reduce the chances of a hip fracture by absorbing the impact of the fall and protecting the hip bones. In essence, hip protectors are shock absorbers for the hip. An added benefit of an elder wearing a hip protector is that they feel more confident and less fearful of falling.

Gait Belts

Elders can lose their balance and fall when you least expect it. The use of a gait belt may assist in guiding and slowing a fall. Gait belts are designed to help caregivers provide elders with balance support during transfers and walking. If an elder loses their balance and starts to fall, a gait belt can help stop a fall in progress. If the elder continues to fall beyond your control, the gait belt can be used to slowly lower the person to the floor. Belts also reduce the risk of muscle strains and back injuries suffered by caregivers.

Click here to read Dr. Rein Tideiksaar’s blog, ‘Can Holiday Visits Prevent Falls’?

Rein Tideiksaar Ph.D., PA-C (or Dr Rein as he is commonly referred to) is the president of FallPrevent, LLC, Blackwood, NJ, a consulting company that provides educational, legal and marketing services related to fall prevention in the elderly. Dr Tideiksaar is a gerontologist (health care professional who specializes in working with elderly patients) and a geriatric physician’s assistant. He has been active in the area of fall prevention for over 30 years, and has directed numerous research projects on falls and has developed fall prevention programs in the community, assisted living, home care, acute care hospital, and nursing facility setting. To learn more, check out the Doctor’s professional profile on LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/dr-rein/6/759/592. If you have any questions about preventing falls, please feel free to email Dr. Tideiksaar at drrein@verizon.net

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