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Free workshop focuses on keeping seniors safe from falls

January 29, 2020
J.T. Whitehouse , The Town Crier

On Friday, (Jan. 31) the Austintown Senior Center, 112 Westchester Drive, and TuDor Physical Therapy will host a fall prevention seminar aimed at keeping seniors safe this winter. The free public event will run from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and will feature one-on-one, fall-risk assessments.

"We have physical therapists who are certified in balance and can assess areas of weakness and/or improper balance that can lead to falls," said Kelli Hulea, spokesperson for TuDor Physical Therapy. "They do a series of movements to assess individuals' risk of falling."

Balance-certified physical therapists will also provide educational handouts on fall-risk signs and symptoms, as well as fall-prevention checklists during the event.

Article Photos

Physical therapist Patricia Godsen monitors a senior’s balance, gait and strength through a series of exercises for a fall-risk assessment.

Hulea said Individuals of all ages are encouraged to attend to understand the signs and symptoms, as well as prevention techniques for themselves or loved ones who may be at risk.

"Fall-risk assessments help us to recommend programs to assist individuals who struggle with weakness, balance, vertigo or pain," said Patricia Godsen, a physical therapist at TuDor. "Strength and endurance programs can be very beneficial for fall prevention and also help individuals to feel more self-confident and less fearful."

Each year, more than 3 million people ages 65 and older are treated for fall injuries. One out of five falls results in a serious injury, including head trauma or fractures, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 95 percent of hip fractures are caused by falling.

Falls can happen for a variety of reasons, including both physical and environmental reasons, according to therapists at TuDor. Strength and endurance programs can be very beneficial for fall prevention because it prepares the individual for certain situations in which they might be more susceptible to falling. It also helps individuals to feel more self-confident and less fearful.

By increasing strength, endurance, reaction time, and proprioception, or the sense of movement and body position, individuals can be prepared in hazardous situations.

If individuals take proactive steps by starting exercise programs and establishing routines, it becomes part of their lives and they don't have to wait until after they have a fall or a possible injury occurs to start. It can also be harder to bounce back after experiencing an injury.

It's also known that resistance/strength training can help maintain bone density in individuals who have osteoporosis.

The question was asked as to what role weight plays in falling. Therapists agreed, obese adults age 65 or older are more likely than their peers to fall, due to decreased reaction time and poorer balance. Obesity increases fall risk by 31 percent. Suffering from a disabling fall increases as body mass index increases. If an individual has a body mass index of 40 or more, his/her risk of suffering from a disabling fall increases by 50 percent.

"The most important thing a senior can do to prevent fall injuries is to seek out preventative care," Hulea said. "We don't want him/her to have to experience a fall before seeking out help. He/she should have a home assessment performed by a physical therapist who can advise certain modifications to reduce certain hazards and the chance of falling."

This could include eliminating throw rugs, adding adequate lighting and decreasing clutter. In addition to the physical setting, seniors should assess their physical well-being.

In addition to having a PT perform a fall-risk assessment, the individual should check with his/her doctor about medications he/she is taking and also have a vision check to ensure that these physical factors aren't contributing to fall-risk.

"Each individual who is at risk may have multiple complications or medical issues, so it's hard to determine the most important thing to do to prevent injury, but by seeking out preventative care from medical professionals, he/she can develop a care plan that's specific to his/her limitations - both physically and environmentally," Hulea said.

For more information on the event or topic, contact TuDor at 330-953-0129 or the Austintown Senior Center at 330-953-1416.



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