Fall 2021 Newsletter
By Kylie Murphy, OTS, BS
Occupational Therapy Student, College of Nursing & Health Professions
Arkansas State University
Edited by Jessica Camp, DNP, APRN, AGCNS-BC, NE-BC, CDP
SIGNIFICANCE OF FALLING FOR OLDER ADULTS & POSSIBLE INTERVENTIONS
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (2020, p. 1), “around 36 million older adults fall each year, resulting in more than 32,000 deaths.” Falls in the older adult population can result in broken bones and head injuries. Falling is not a normal part of aging. Falls are a result of physical changes or poor home environmental setup. There are multiple sources available which can aid providers in having conversations with their patients to help prevent home falls.
According to the CDC (2018) and Mayo Clinic (2019), some fall prevention options for providers to discuss with patients include suggesting patients:
• schedule yearly eye and foot examinations
• add grab bars near bathtub and toilet
• have plenty of light throughout the home
• get plenty of exercise
• store items within easy reach
• use assistive devices when needed
• remove throw rugs
• keep an updated list of medications
• maintain a clutter-free home
Additional things to consider when talking with patients about preventing falls at home, should include adding their vitamins, supplements and over the counter medications to their list of home medications. Patients need to know that all their daily medications are important to include.
Patients also need to know that vision changes are a normal part of aging and that these changes can influence a person’s fall risk. Eye examinations from an optometrist are critical in identifying eye problems early on. Explain to patients that some common eye problems they will be screened for may include glaucoma, cataracts, macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, and conjunctivitis. All of these eye conditions can influence a person’s fall risk.
Foot examinations should be performed during a yearly check-up like a Medicare Annual Wellness Visit. Providers should check sensation, blood flow, and changes to the shape of the feet. Instruct the patient remove their shoes and socks when seating them in your exam rooms or other treatment areas.
Another intervention is the reduction of clutter and good lighting in your clinical areas, just like we would the home environment to be. Reducing clutter and having good lighting reduces tripping hazards that may cause falls when patients come to visit you. Modeling a safe environment can provide visual examples for you to use when discussing a patient’s home environment modifications.
Another critical aspect in reducing fall risk for your patients is to promote a healthy lifestyle. Exercises that promotes balance, strength, and coordination such as, Tai Chi, will help prevent falls for an aging individual in your care. Devices such as a plastic seat in the shower or a raised toilet seat can be helpful to patients who have fallen in the bathroom. These items can provide a stable surface when doing daily activities and may have some coverage by insurances.
Resources to share with your patients and families can sometimes be challenging to locate when you are busy working. Below are some online resources for family members and caregivers that provide more information on home fall prevention in older adults. Please share them with your patients and their families:
• Fall prevention resources for older adults and caregivers
• Debunking the Myths of Older Adult Falls
• Video on 6 steps to prevent falls from the National Council on Aging (NCO)
• 18 Steps to Fall Proofing Your Home from the NCO
• Evidence-Based Falls Prevention Programs from the NCO
• Eldercare Locator
• National Assistive Technology (AT) Program search
• CDC- Adult fall prevention resources
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention . (2018). Family caregivers: Protect your loved ones from falling . https://www.cdc.gov/steadi/pdf/STEADI-CaregiverBrochure.pdf
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention . (2020). Injury prevention & control: Keep on your feet. CDC. https://www.cdc.gov/injury/features/older-adult-falls/index.html#:~:text=About%2036%20million%20older%20adults,bones%20or%20a%20head%20injury
Mayo Clinic Staff. (2019). Fall prevention: Simple tips to prevent falls. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/healthy-aging/in-depth/fall-prevention/art-20047358