As we age, falls can become common and have sometimes devastating consequences. Physiotherapists play a crucial role in preventing these falls and therefore help to alleviate the burden they cause on our health system.
Many studies have been done on the impact of falls, and the interventions that work. Here we will have a look at the components involved.
There are many systems involved in keeping us upright. We need to be able to visualise the environment so we can see any changes in surface, we need proprioception (to know where the body is in space), strength and reaction time. All of these factors can be affected by ageing, reduced physical activity levels, infections and such illness and also medications.
Physiotherapists can provide assistance in the form of aids when these systems aren’t sufficient, but also teach compensatory strategies. It is the physio’s aim to assess if a patient is capable of rehabilitation or requiring compensation.
It is important that we understand the context of the falls. Are they occurring in a challenging environment? An environment that would cause even a strong, fit, younger individual to fall? Or are they occurring in a controlled, unchallenging environment such as walking across the lounge room?
People can decide if they will take a risk, they can decide how to undertake a task. Are you elderly, need your gutters cleaned? Do you get the ladder out or do you call someone to help? A person’s understanding of their physical capacity impacts their decisions.
There are many tools available to assist in predicting falls risk. Utilising these, performing a physical assessment and interview allows us to identify appropriate management strategies.
Latest research indicates that group exercise significantly assists in reducing falls risk in the older population living in the community. So, we have implemented exactly that. We are grateful for Alicia, who comes to us as an experienced balance and falls prevention physiotherapist. Alicia is working to implement a group exercise class that incorporates not only strengthening, proprioception but also education. She is currently working on a one-on-one basis with patients and is available for consultation on Thursdays.
Do you know anyone who would benefit from an assessment, some advice or would enjoy the group exercise setting (there is morning tea!)?
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