Fall Prevention — A Key Role for Elders to Age Well

By Improvement Specialist Tamara Odden, Palliative Support Consultant Chris Piromalli, and Physical Therapist Regina Swanson

Southcentral Foundation strives to support the health and wellness of Elder customer-owners. The aging well initiative incorporates the 4 Ms — mentation, medication, mobility, and what matters to provide age friendly, whole-person care.

Mobility plays an important role as you age and can affect quality of life.

Mobility plays an important role as you age. Supporting mobility, function, and strength all help to prevent falls so Elders can maintain independence. The fear of falling alone can affect quality of life by keeping you from being active and doing the things you love. Customer-owners can overcome this fear by maintaining physical health to prevent falls.

At SCF, physical therapists partner with customer-owners to support staying active, and mobile, and reach wellness goals. One such customer-owner, an 80-year-old woman, was having mobility trouble and frequent falls. The physical therapist conducted a home assessment to see how she could be more independent again.

To start, night lights were installed and pathways cleared. Then, by adjusting assistive devices, she worked on strength, balance, and walking techniques. Soon, she was able to regain her independence at home and was no longer losing her balance. Most importantly, she was better able to enjoy time with her husband.

Why do aging adults fall? There are many reasons, and understanding them is the first step to prevention. Polypharmacy, or using four or more prescribed medications, is a common occurrence for Elders and can make it two times more likely they may fall. It is important for Elders to meet with their primary care provider regularly to assess prescribed medications and to ensure they are still effective in supporting good health.

Difficulties with balance and gait may be another reason why an Elder may fall. Using an assistive device, such as a cane or walker, can help a person feel more steady when walking and prevent falls. Customer-owners can ask to meet with a physical therapist to determine if assistive devices can help when commuting or standing for extended periods of time. It is important to learn how to use these devices in a correct way to stay safe.

Drinking enough fluids is essential for aging well and preventing falls. Not only is this important for maintaining good joint and organ function, but not drinking enough fluids can cause fatigue and dizziness, leading to increased falls. Ask your health care team how much fluid you should be
drinking each day to stay healthy.

Southcentral Foundation has many resources to assist customer-owners age well, remain active, and stay safe. Everyone has their own set of wellness and health care goals as they age, and there are teams ready to partner on the aging journey. SCF occupational therapy, physical therapy, and primary care providers are available to assist customer-owners
create a plan to remain mobile and prevent falls.

For more information about the aging well initiative, please talk to your primary care provider.