Are you a fall risk? One out of four individuals over the age of 65 falls each year. While not all falls result in injury, some can have serious consequences including injury, hospitalization, and even death.
In honor of Balance Awareness Week (Sept 15-21), we are highlighting falls prevention and awareness among older adults. Falls do not have to be accepted as a “normal” part of aging. There are many things we can do to prevent falls from occurring. The first step in prevention is identifying who is a fall risk.
Fall Prevention Screenings
Your medical providers play an important role in determining if you are a fall risk. During your annual physical, your primary care doctor may already assess your balance by asking if you’ve had any recent falls or asking you to complete a quick balance exercise, such as standing tandem or on one foot. While these activities may indicate balance concerns, better tools are now available to gauge a person’s fall risk.
Recently, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) released updated guidelines for screening risk of falls, assessment, and intervention. This is part of the CDC initiative called STEADI (Stopping Elderly Accidents, Deaths, and Injuries). The STEADI program is designed to give medical professionals tools for screening and assessing people over 65, so they can identify fall risks and intervene to reduce the number falls.
One of the simplest screening tools in the STEADI toolkit for doctors is to ask patients these three questions:
- Do you feel unsteady while standing or walking?
- Do you worry about your balance?
- Have you fallen in the last year?
If you answer yes to one or more of these questions, you may be at risk of falling. Speak with your physician about your balance concerns right away. Don’t wait!
Your physician may also review how your balance may be impacted by your current medications, blood pressure, the feeling in your feet, and your eyesight. They may also screen how steady you are while walking and your ability to get in and out of a chair. If you are having problems walking steadily or getting out of chair, the STEADI initiative recommends you be referred to physical therapy for balance.
Improve Your Balance with Physical Therapy
If you agree with the following statements, you can benefit from balance therapy.
- I walk slower than I used to
- I find myself using furniture in my home to steady myself
- It has been recommended to me that I use a cane or walker
- I must pay more attention to my walking than before
- I have difficulty walking at night especially when it is dark
- I find myself being very careful when walking on grass, dirt, or gravel
A good balance therapy program starts with a comprehensive evaluation of your balance system and its three sensory inputs (vestibular, proprioception, and vision). Your balance is based on how these sensory inputs convey information about the environment to your brain. If one or two of these is not working correctly, the others must work harder to help you maintain your balance. Over time, this will cause your balance responses to decline.
We are here to help you improve your balance and prevent future falls. Vortex Physical Therapy and Balance offers intensive 1:1 physical therapy to address your specific balance issues. Your balance therapy program will include exercises to address balance, strength, range of motion (ROM), and posture. Our goal is to improve your safety and mobility, while rebuilding your confidence in your balance.
Please contact our office for more information or to schedule a balance evaluation.
Additional STEADI Resources: