Our nation's elderly population is dying from a silent killer at an alarming rate. Each year, falls are the leading cause of death from injury in adults over the age of 65.(1) Approximately one-third of older adults fall each year.(1) And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that the cost of all falls will be nearly $55 billion by 2020. As part of Fall Prevention Week, Amedisys (Nasdaq: AMED), a leading provider of home health and hospice care, is working to change these unacceptable statistics by educating seniors on 10 easy tips to help prevent falls.
"Falls are a serious health concern, but there are many steps we can take to reduce a person's risk," said Wanda Hull, vice president of Rehabilitation Specialty Programs with Amedisys.
"We believe that aging is not a disease and falls are not a normal part of getting older. According to the National Institutes of Health, falls don't just happen and people don't fall because they get older. Our Balanced for Life program's comprehensive assessment and treatment allows us to identify and address the root cause of a person's fall risk, allowing our patients to remain safe and active in their home environment."
Amedisys stresses the following tips for seniors and caregivers through its successful multidisciplinary approach to fall prevention with the Amedisys Balanced for Life Program.
1. Understand if you are at a heightened risk for falling.
Individuals with lower extremity weaknesses or cognitive, visual or sensory impairments are all at heightened risk. Additionally those who have difficulty with transfers and mobility, or those with certain neurological disorders or individuals who use multiple medications all have a greater risk of falling.
2. Make your home environment safer.
Remove electrical cords along walkways in the home; use non-slip mats; tightly secure throw rugs; install handrails by stairs and inclines; and put grab bars in the bathroom.
3. Ensure proper indoor and outdoor lighting.
Proper lighting can decrease your chance of tripping or falling over unseen objects, furniture or steps.
4. Eat right.
Simple dietary changes can improve bone density and regulate the body, thus reducing your fall risk.
5. Exercise regularly.
Stay active with a walking group or individual exercise program and consider incorporating basic yoga moves and stretches which can increase balance and stability. It is important to always check with your physician prior to starting any exercise program.
6. Get adequate sleep.
Too little sleep can lead to fatigue and heighten your risk for falling. Conversely, too much sleep or lying around can weaken the muscles and also heighten your fall risk.
7. Get checked out.
Have all systems that control balance including vision and hearing evaluated by a physician, and consider a comprehensive program that will be tailored to your needs.
8. Review your medications.
Many medicines can have side effects which cause dizziness and drowsiness. Talk to your doctor about the side effects for all medications before starting, and if side effects occur, discuss alternatives.
9. Watch out for environmental hazards.
Snow, ice and rain can cause slippery sidewalks and surfaces making anyone more likely to fall. 10. Use a cane or walker to support you. If necessary, these walking assistants can help to stabilize your body and provide you with better balance.
In addition to these preventive tips, Amedisys' Balanced for Life program offers the only multidisciplinary approach in the country for fall prevention. The advanced rehabilitation specialty program evaluates each patient and develops a systematic approach to treatment, so that patients can manage their balance disorder, reducing fall risk and maintaining safe and independent living.
Balanced for Life incorporates comprehensive vestibular assessment; comprehensive gait and balance assessments; sensory evaluation and integration; infrared light therapy; adaptation and habituation exercises; medication adherence and interaction; and environmental assessments. The program has proven clinical outcomes, with 94 percent of patients improving their balance by at least two points according to the Tinetti Performance Oriented Mobility Assessment, a widely recognized clinical instrument used to measure fall risk. The Balanced for Life Program began in February 2007, and in 2009 supported more than 32,000 patients.
(1) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: www.cdc.gov/HomeandRecreationalSafety/Falls/adultfalls.html
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