As an outpatient Doctor of Physical Therapy, I interact with the elderly community on a daily basis, many of which are at risk of falling or have suffered from a recent fall injury.
Consider the facts. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have arrived at the following findings:
- One in four Americans over the age of 65 years of age fall every year, with the number of falls increasing each decade of life.
- Every 11 seconds an elderly adult is treated for a fall injury in the emergency department and an older adult dies from a fall every 19 minutes.
- Falls are the leading cause of fatal injuries and the most common cause of nonfatal trauma-related hospital admissions among older adults.
- The financial toll is expected to increase as the US population ages and may reach $67.7 Billion by 2020.
- Falls without injury impacts quality of life. Individuals that fall limit their activities and social life which contributes to physical decline and may contribute to depression and a sense of helplessness.
I feel passionate about educating all my older adults and often make the following recommendations:
- Walk more briskly!
Studies have found that the speed at which you walk correlates to risk of falling. Walking at a speed of less than 1.0 meter per second increases your risk of falling and need for some type of medical/physical intervention. You are more likely to be hospitalized should your walking speed be less than .6 m/sec. Walking speed is considered a 6th vital sign and good indication of our health and mortality.
- Strengthen your legs!
It is so important to realize our legs are the pillars in which we support our body. Leg strength and mortality have also been associated. Simple exercises, such as raising yourself up and down from a seated position can be a simple and effective way to strengthen your legs. In the Physical Therapy clinic, counting the number of repetitions of sit to stand performed in 30 seconds provided me with a good estimate of ones’ leg strength. 12 repetitions completed in thirty seconds is considered normal for the average male 65-69 years 0f age.
- Improve your endurance!
It is important to have sufficient endurance to walk from one end of a super-market to the far end where most essential products are kept. If you tire easily due to decreased endurance you may likely increase your risk of falling.
- Improve your mobility!
Some recent studies suggest your inability to get yourself up from the floor is also associated with your mortality rate. Individuals who have little or no difficulty getting up from the floor may have a 5x greater life expectancy than those who have difficulties getting up from the floor. While walking is a horizontal mobility activity, getting up from the floor is a vertical mobility activity requiring strength and flexibility of your body.
- Improve your Balance!
Do you find yourself catching your toes when you walk, shuffling your feet, or holding onto walls or furniture when you walk? Your balance may not be sufficient and may contribute to an increase risk of you falling.The reasons people fall are numerous. Medications, the home environment, vision impairments, and nervous system impairments may also be very significant factors for falling. It is imperative that all aging individuals become aware of the health hazards associated with falling. Please speak to your health care provider, physician, or a therapist should you experience a near fall episode or have concerns regarding any decline in your physical abilities.
The ResQUp is a mobility device that has been designed and produced to aid those with mobility difficulties. The ResQUp has 3 incremental horizontal levels, each at 4.5 inches to assist a fallen individual return to a seat height with little to no assistance of another. Raising yourself up from the floor independently or semi-independently will lessen the risk of a lifting injury of a potential rescuer coming to the assistance of the fallen, also getting up from the floor gives the fallen individual the opportunity to strengthen themselves and improve their functional mobility.
Additional benefits of utilizing the ResQUp :
- Endurance Training
Improve the number of steps you can perform in a two minutes time. Repetitively placing the right then left foot on and off the 4.5/9.0/13.5 inch-high levels. Never have both feet on the ResQUp at any one time.
- Balance Training
Balance can be improved by having a right or left foot on a horizontal level for several seconds. Progression can be done by raising the arms, head movements, or closing the eyes. These activities are higher level activities and most likely require the supervision of a health care provider.
- Mobility Training
Those fearful of not being able to get to the floor or back up from the floor level can start by moving from a standard height chair of 18 inches to the upper most level of the ResQUp level of 13.5 inches. As ones’ upper body strength and confidence improves, you may be able to move closer to the floor level and then back up to chair height.Consult a licensed Physical Therapist or other qualified healthcare provider should you have any questions whether the ResQUp may be an appropriate device for you. Keep strength, mobility, balance, and endurance an important aspect of your life.