Caring for Your Parents: Preventing Falls
ANCHORAGE - Falls are one of the most common injuries for the elderly, and sometimes the injuries sustained from a fall can be quite serious. At Serendipity, an adult day center run by the Salvation Army for people with dementia, exercise is an important part of the daily activities. But pretty soon, the exercises will change.
Serendipity is teaming up with the University of Alaska and the University of Washington to be part of a pilot program to see if a specific set of exercises can prevent falls.
“While all exercise is positive, not all exercise programs are going to get you the same results,” said UAA researcher Diane King. “What’s nice about this is that there is some research behind it.” King said a first step will be training instructors at Serendipity how to teach the exercises. The program itself will probably start sometime in March and funding is set to run for the next two years.
In Alaska, icy conditions mean that falls are a big concern for just about everyone. But some people are more at risk than others, according to Dr. Barnard Farzin of Providence Hospital’s Senior Care Center.
“Things like age, of course, 65 and over,” said Dr. Farzin. “Women are at an increased risk. People who have arthritis or other neurological conditions, anything that makes you weak in the lower extremities is going to predispose you to a fall.”
Dr. Farzin said falls can result in serious injuries including broken bones. But perhaps more distressing is when an injury from a fall spirals into something worse.
“The biggest thing you can lose when you fall is your independence,” said Dr. Farzin. “And so if you do suffer one of these significant injuries, you might lose the ability to walk or you might be bedridden for an extended period of time. It’s when that happens that you are at greatest risk for getting sick, potentially even dying.”
Dr. Farzin said prevention is the most important part, and that older folks who’ve experienced even a little fall need to get checked out. Dr. Farzin said there are things that doctors can do to help patients prevent another one.
“We can send you to physical therapy. Maybe you aren’t on the right combination of medication and we can take away the riskier ones and put you on a safer regiment. We can also optimize your home environment.”
He said there are simple modifications that can help keep people on their feet, keep them injury free, and, hopefully, hang on to their independence as long as possible.
For more information on the Caring for Your Parents series, text KTVAAGING to 28201.