In honor of Home Safety Month, Homecare Advocate is going to do a 4-part series on Fall Prevention. Among those 65 and older, falls are the leading cause of emergency room visits, and the chances of being seriously injured by falling increases significantly with age. According to the CDC, the rate of fall injuries for seniors over 85 is four times that of adults 65-74. “Each year, one in every three adults age 65 and older falls. Falls can lead to moderate to severe injuries, such as hip fractures and head traumas, and can even increase the risk of early death.” However, there are proactive steps you can take to prevent falls.
Today’s lesson? 5 important conversations you need to have with your physician.
1. Previous Falls
Tell your doctor about any previous falls you have had. It is also important to talk about instances where you almost fell. Did a person catch you? Did you grab onto a piece of furniture to steady yourself? For many, a fall or almost-fall can make a person fearful of falling, leading to inactivity or hunching over instead of with good, erect posture. These actions can actually increase the risk of falling over a period of time. Giving your physician information on when/where/how you fell and any psychological fears of falling help with his/her assessment of your situation and help come up with the best plan for you.
2. Health Conditions
Having an open, honest conversation about symptoms and health conditions can also help your physician evaluate your needs. Do you experience:
- Trouble balancing when walking
- Muscle weakness
- Swelling in your ankles/feet
- Vision impairments
- Difficulty performing activities of daily living (eating, bathing, dressing)
- Sleeping pattern changes
- Ear trouble that could affect your equilibrium
- Joint pain
- Shortness of breath when walking
Symptoms like these may increase your risk of falling. Your physician can help you come up with a plan for managing these conditions so that you aren’t as vulnerable and prone to falling.
3. Medications–prescriptions, over the counter, supplements
Medicines can affect your ability to balance, your alertness, your blood pressure, and more–all of which can make you more prone to falls. Make a list of all of the medications you take and bring the list with you when you visit the doctor. It is important for your physician to know what you are currently taking as he/she considers if any additional prescriptions are needed to treat you. As you write your list, include prescriptions from all of the physicians you see (your primary care physician as well as any specialists), any herbal supplements you take, and all over the counter medicines you self-treat with. (It is a common misconception that over the counter medications do not pose risks like prescription medicines and that they are safe for all people to use. All medicines alter the body in some way and should be included in the list you present to your doctor.) This list can help your doctor identify:
- possible side effects
- interactions with medicines, foods, drinks
- medical conditions that cause problems with use
- the proper dosage
- alternative medications that may reduce your risks
- short- vs. long-term needs
4. Assistive Devices
Your doctor might recommend assistive devices to help you to live independently and move about. In particular, you can talk to your doctor about mobility enhancing devices such as a cane or walker. Depending on your insurance plan, you may qualify for financial help for some mobility products. Your physician can help you evaluate what type of mobility product that would be best for you. Mobility options include(but are not limited to):
- Cane (regular cane or quadcane for extra stability)
- Rollator (walker with seat, wheels, & easy-grip breaks)
- Wheelchair, manual
- Wheelchair, power
If your doctor advises you to use a mobility product, it is in your best interest to do so. I’ve had several conversations with our customers throughout the years where they understand their physical need to use the item but are psychologically stuck in the beginning. They worry that it is a sign that they are losing their abilities, that it is unattractive, or that they won’t get used to using it. Working through these psychological issues is necessary because, left unresolved, they could prevent a person from injuring him/herself by not using the product.
Negative Thought: “It’s a sign of losing my abilities” Instead, think about all of the things you will now be able to do and places you can go with the assistance of your mobility product. Whether you’re getting up to answer the phone, shopping for groceries, attending a grandchild’s school play, or exploring the Dogwood Arts Festival, you can do so with greater ease and assurance. Assistive devices empower you to live life fully, safely, and with confidence.
Negative Thought: “It’s unattractive” These products have come a long way in recent years. Now, you can get floral canes, colorful rollators, and even plaid wheelchairs! Adding thoughtful consideration to the aesthetic look of a product has made a huge difference in our customers’ perception of what it means to use these products.
Negative Thought: “I’ll never get used to it” One of the key benefits of coming into a specialty medical equipment store is that there are professionally trained staff to measure you and help you pick out the most appropriate product. There, they take extra time to thoroughly explain the product and how it is to be used. Try using it in the stores and talk to the staff about any concerns you have. You should feel confident in your ability to use the product by the time you leave the store.
Before beginning any physical exercise program, you should always consult with your physician. Talk to your doctor about possible activities, such as walking, water workouts, or tai chi. The next post in our Fall Prevention series will go into greater details of exercise opportunities to consider adding to your daily routine.
Your doctor and other health care professionals care for your well being and can offer great medical insight to the cause of your falls and ways to avoid falling. Depending on your situation, you may want to talk to your pharmacist, optometrist, podiatrist, physical therapist, or occupational therapist, among others. Proactive measures like an annual eye exam, using assistive devices, and monitoring the effects of medication all help reduce your risk of falling.
:: AWP ::