Aqua TherapyHealth

Fall Prevention Strategies for the Elderly

Aqua Therapy group class for the elderly for fall prevention at Fish and Field Biokineticists in Bryanston, Johannesburg.

Did you know that falls are the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries among adults aged 65 years and over? As Biokineticists, we dedicate ourselves to promoting health and wellbeing for all individuals, especially for those we feel are at increased risk. We strive to ensure a healthy lifestyle is maintained as well as increase one’s quality of life. This includes strategising fall prevention for our older clients.

Why is Fall Prevention important?

Falling is a major threat to the health and independence of older individuals. According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 646 000 individuals die from falls globally each year. In addition to this, roughly 37.3 million falls a year are severe enough to require medical attention.

Falling can be incredibly traumatic, leading to serious injury. The most common fall related injuries include head trauma, hip fractures and circulatory disorders – many of which have long term repercussions.

What are the risk factors for falling?

Falling is not an inevitable consequence of aging. However, falls do happen more often among older populations as their risk factors for falling increase with age. A risk factor is something which increases a person’s likelihood to fall and can be either intrinsic or extrinsic. They can be broken down into three categories: biological, behavioural or environmental.

Biological risk factors:

  • Muscle weakness
  • Balance difficulties
  • Medication-use side effects
  • Chronic health conditions (Arthritis, Stroke, Parkinson’s)
  • Visual changes / vision loss
  • Neuropathy or loss of sensation in the feet

Behavioural risk factors:

  • Inactivity
  • Risky behaviour (such as standing on a chair to get something down from a high shelf)
  • Alcohol use
  • Moving to quickly / standing up to fast

Environmental risk factors:

  • Clutter (boxes, pot plants, magazine stands)
  • Tripping hazards (loose rugs, electrical cables, loose floorboards)
  • Poor lighting
  • Lack of stair railings
  • Uneven step height
  • Lack of grab rails in the bath and shower

Fall Prevention Strategies

Fall prevention strategies may seem like common sense, however as we mentioned earlier, fall related injuries continue to occur each year on an enormous scale.

In many cases, small changes can make a huge difference. Choosing appropriate footwear with sufficient grip, placing non-slip mats underneath loose rugs and cleaning up any spilt liquid off the floor immediately after messing will all lower your risk of falling.

As Biokineticists, we look at the physical risk factors which make one more susceptible to falling and help improve on those. For example, muscle weakness, balance trouble, coordination challenges and proprioception difficulties.

Strength, balance, coordination and flexibility exercises are all effective in fall prevention. Activities such as walking, sit to stands and single leg balance exercises are a few simple examples. These exercises may be difficult for some and may cause them to feel unsteady on their feet, increasing their risk to falling. Unless you are at low risk of falling and able to stand without support, we do not recommend you attempt these exercises alone. As Biokineticists we provide support and guidance through the exercises and ensure the exercise program is individualised to suit your personal needs and goals.

Aqua Therapy for Fall Prevention

Water workouts provide a brilliant and safe alternative to land-based exercise, especially if you are someone who struggles to maintain balance and fears falling. At Fish and Field, we have a passion for water-based therapy, using the resistance and buoyancy of the water to our advantage in order to achieve the best results for you. Moving one’s body through the water requires your muscles to work hard, and given its low impact environment, still provides protection for your joints.

While it is not possible to completely prevent falling, exercises that focus on balance and strength can reduce the risk and help prevent future falls. If you feel you are at risk of falling, feel free to contact us and we would be happy to help!

References:

Fall prevention: Simple tips to prevent falls. (2020). Retrieved 17 September 2020, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/healthy-aging/in-depth/fall-prevention/art-20047358

Ott L. D. (2018). The impact of implementing a fall prevention educational session for community-dwelling physical therapy patients. Nursing open5(4), 567–574. https://doi.org/10.1002/nop2.165

National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. Preventing Falls: A Guide to Implementing Effective Community-based Fall Prevention Programs. 2nd ed. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2015.

Falls. (2018). Retrieved 17 September 2020, from https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/falls

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