Components Of A Fall prevention evaluation

Fall Prevention

Fall Prevention

During my evaluation with many of my patients, almost always with people over 70, is the fear and concern of losing their mobility or independence due to a fall. ​​​​​​​

And many will tell me about how they don’t like it when it takes them more than one time to try and get up out of a chair or a stool or a booth at a restaurant when they’re with family. They don’t like it when they stand up and feel wobbly or unsteady and need to grab onto a table or a loved one because they’re afraid that they’re going to fall.

What are the components of balance?

Fear of falling is an enormous issue as we age and it’s a very normal situation.

When we think of the three components of our balance:

  • 1. our vision
  • 2. our vestibular system
  • 3. our muscles in our lower leg

All three decline as we get older. It’s a natural consequence of aging.

What do physical therapists do in a fall prevention evaluation?

However, it does not mean that we can’t improve those things. Every one of those areas can improve with physical therapy or with vision correction techniques like going to see your eye doctor.

So what we do in our fall prevention programs is include an evaluation that will assess where most of the issue or problem is in your balance. And almost always, we treat leg strength because as we get older, the strength of our legs and ability to prevent or step wide to prevent a fall gets worse.

So we do a few tests to identify where we are, what our current level of ability is for the strength of our legs and then we test our balance.

And we test our balance with our eyes open and our eyes closed. Vision, as I said earlier, is a big component of our balance, and actually, as we age, we rely more and more on our vision. So in low-light situations like parking garages, movie theaters or we get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, it’s a bigger problem when we can’t see very well. And the other factor is our vision gets worse and we can’t trust it as we used to. We need corrective lenses to improve our eyesight so that we can function better.

How physical therapy can help your balance

Once we identify how bad our balance is, we find exercises within the realm of ability to begin the baby steps to improve that balance and to lessen that fear of falling.

If you or someone you love has told you they have a hard time walking out in the grass because it’s a much more unsteady or wobbly surface, or they’re in the shower, and when they go to wash their hair, they have to lean up against the wall, these are all times where you should be thinking that you or this person needs help to improve their balance to reduce the risk of falling.

Nick Hunter, PT, DPT

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