Deadly Effects of the Falling Cycle

Know it. Take it Seriously. Prevent it.

 

Falling Prevention | Buffalo NY 

Michelle Eliason, MS, OTR/L, C.DS., CKTS

 

The Cycle of Falling should be taken seriously. From 2007 to 2017, fall-related deaths increased by 31% among older adults. The people group most susceptible to death related to a fall are those over the age of 85, but statistics state that it is a very real problem for those aged 65+ of whom almost 30,000 persons die just from an unintended fall per year in the United States. This number is expected to increase to 43,000 by 2030. (Full Article). Although this statistic seems old or overused, it is very real. Chronic falls or just one traumatic fall leading to hospitalization could make you part of this statistic! Luckily, The falling cycle is 100% preventable. 

What is the falling cycle [cycle of falling]?

1) Falling is not taken seriously by an average person. 

If one in every four individuals are reporting a fall each year in the United States (1), how many more falls are occurring unreported? The topic of falling should be treated as any other diagnosis and issued a treatment plan in the same way. Because of the severity of current statistics, if an older person as fallen, a conversation about why is always best! A home exercise program designed specifically for an aging body to improve balance can reduce subsequent falls by over 35%! 

2) There is no feeling of urgency regarding falls

People commonly say things like:

  • “I just lost my balance really quick, it was nothing.”
  • “It won’t happen again, I’ll be more careful.” 
  • “I didn’t tell anyone because I didn’t want them to think I wasn’t safe in my home.” 
  • “I’ll just make sure I walk more.” 
  • “I didn’t get hurt, I don’t need to tell anyone.” 
  • “I’m sore all over, but what is a doctor going to do about that? It’s just because of the fall.”

3) People try to design their own solution without seeking professional advice and assistance 

So what do they do? They decrease their lifespaceIf you haven’t heard the call on lifespace. In short, lifespace is an individual physical and psychological space. When someone is experiencing falls, they will shut down their lifespace and begin eliminating rooms in their houses and places they are going because of fear, pain, or low energy. This, in turn, decreases their social life and physical activity and increases feelings of despair, loneliness, fear/paranoia about their physical status, generalized weakness, and more.

Lifespace should be protected and encouraged not eliminated or downsized!  If you or a loved one has a history of falling or chronic sickness, an action plan must be created to rehabilitate physical /psychological factorsand maintain maximum lifespace! 

4)  Physical decline is experienced as a result of falling and decreased lifespace

The saying “If you don’t move it, you will lose it.” has never been truer. When the lifespace is shut down, an individual experience increased weakness and shortness of breath, increased joint and muscle pain, more fatigue during physical activity, increased forgetfulness, and perpetual fear of falling. The body was created to move, socialize, experience new situations, constantly learn new things, and thrive. When you begin to be affected by chronic falls and sickness, you will see effects in your balance almost immediately. 

5) A person will experience more falls….

Whether it is a week, a month, 3 or 6 months later, experiencing a subsequent fall is likely for individuals who are not following an action plan with proper oversight by a professional. Remember, the statistic wouldn’t exist if the right treatment, actions, and oversight was being put in place! Keeping your fall a secret, especially when you experience an injury as a result of that fall, is deadly and leads to a decline in many areas of one’s function.  Participating in a short term rehabilitation program is, most times, not enough. If you or your loved one has experienced chronic falls or chronic illnesses, establishing a relationship with a productive aging care manager, following a home exercises program, and attending quarterly functional/performance check-ups  is crucial to protecting your quality of life. 

Occupational therapy practitioners (OTP) are taught lifespace and the ecological theory of aging to address this particular dilemma. An OTP can utilize cognitive-behavioral therapy and conditioning to improve perceived confidence over movement and environment, psychosocial feedback and reflection to re-introduce occupations eliminated out of fear, rehabilitate body structures, functions, and skills to participate in identified occupations, and much more. Creating an open long-term dialogue with an individual at risk for falls is crucial to seeing a change in the alarming rate of deaths associated with falls among older adults 65 years and over.

References

 

  1. Burns E, Kakara R. Deaths from Falls Among Persons Aged ≥65 Years — United States, 2007–2016. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2018;67:509–514. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm6718a1

Salzman, B., & Salzman, B. (2010). Gait and balance disorders in older adults. American Family Physician, 82(1), 61–68. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/733567616/

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