A slip and fall is no laughing matter. When an older person goes down, it is often the beginning of a downward spiral.
“One out of three seniors falls every year. Half of those that do fall - fall so bad that they’re hospitalized. And those that are hospitalized, 50% of those pass away within a year. So it’s a horrible statistic,” says Mark Tesoro, trauma analyst with Lee Memorial Health System.
Prevention programs fall into two areas: one addressing physical skills and another looking at environmental factors.
“Falls occur more frequently in your homes. Homes are a dangerous place - throw rugs you would think of but also other things like clutter, cabling, lighting - huge issue. Pets are an issue in terms of being knocked over and falling over,” says Tesoro.
Removing obstacles, creating better lighting and installing grab bars help prevent falls, so does undergoing a balance evaluation.
“We can make tremendous improvements on balance depending upon what factors are causing their unsteadiness or loss of balance,” says Dawn Root, physical therapist with Lee Memorial Health System.
Using a both hi-tech screening tools and old-fashioned physical skills test, therapists are able to diagnose underlying problems that make people unsteady.
“The smart eco-test which is the standing balance, or the sensory organization test, looks at how well patients are using their balance systems. Whereas the gaze stabilization or dynamic visual acuity test that tells us specifically about the inner ear or vestibular system,” says Root.
Addressing potential pitfalls through a combination of physical therapy and changing the physical environment, is helping people strike the right balance.