Fall-related injuries are a significant hazard for older adults. In 2019, the CDC documented more than 3 million emergency room visits due to falls among adults 65 and older.
Why Fall Follow Up Matters
Older adults who have already experienced a serious fall are significantly more likely to fall again within a year of the previous episode.
Falls can be a product of bad luck, but there are often underlying medical or behavioral causes at the source of most serious falls. Because of this, it is critical to visit a doctor after a fall to screen for possible changes in you or your loved one’s health.
Five Things Your Doctor Should Check
When visiting your doctor after a fall, be sure to discuss the following:
- Assess for underlying illnesses – Your doctor should screen for any new illnesses, including cardiovascular illness, UTI’s, pneumonia, anemia, and signs of possible stroke or mini-stroke. Be sure to discuss any unusual symptoms or changes you have experienced since your last visit, even if they seem unrelated. If you broke a bone in the fall, you should also be screened for osteoporosis.
- Blood pressure and pulse – Poor circulation or cardiovascular illness can cause a person to feel lightheaded and dizzy when rising from a chair. Your doctor should check your blood pressure both seated and standing for a drop in blood pressure.
- Blood tests – Blood tests are a powerful tool for identifying potential negative drug interactions and changes in overall health. Be sure to discuss if any abnormalities found during these screenings could contribute to future fall risk.
- Review medications – Be sure to discuss all prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, and supplements you currently take. Some medications can have negative effects when mixed, leading to loss of coordination, changes in blood pressure, and other common causes of falls. Sleep aids, blood pressure, diabetes management, anti-depressant, and pain medications can all impact balance and increase fall risks.
- Assess gait and balance – Finally, doctors should assess the patient’s overall mobility and the stability of their gait. Poor balance or an unsteady gait can be improved significantly through physical therapy, mobility aids, and other low-impact interventions.
Other Ways to Prevent Future Falls
In addition to seeing your primary care physician, there are other important steps you can take to lower the risk of future falls.
- Schedule an eye exam – Poor vision or out-of-date corrective prescriptions can make it harder to navigate around fall hazards.
- Visit a podiatrist – Fall prevention starts at the ground-up. Schedule a visit with a podiatrist to see if your foot health might be impacting balance and gait. They can also recommend shoes suited to your needs that give you an appropriate amount of traction and support to prevent falls.
- Reassess and rearrange your home for fall hazards – Starting at the site of the fall, fully inspect your home for common fall hazards. These include:
- Loose area rugs or matts
- Bunched areas of rug
- Loose cords and cables
- Poor lighting
- Cluttered spaces
- Important items on high shelves
- Unstable stools/stepladders
- Slippery bathroom surfaces
- Obstructed or hard-to-reach light switches and lamps
- Slippery stair coverings
- Begin balance exercises – Ask your doctor if they recommend balance or strength exercises that can help you avoid future falls.
- Speak with a home health care agency – An in-home caregiver can provide critical support in removing or preventing fall hazards, assisting with transitions in and out of chairs and beds, and generally being a helping hand when support is needed. Additionally, home care agencies provide regular at-home check-ins with a registered nurse, which can be a valuable way to catch changes in health, balance, and behavior before they contribute to a fall.
If you or a loved one are concerned about falls or have fallen before, now may be the time to consider a solution through in-home care.
SelectCare Home Care Services has helped New Yorkers live happier, healthier lives in the comfort of their long-time homes for 37 years. Call SelectCare today to learn how we can help, or request a free in-home care guide to learn more.