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Falls in Older Adults

Beth Crowner, DPT,
treats patients at

4444 Forest Park Avenue, Suite 1210
St. Louis, MO 63108

Phone:  314-286-1940     Fax: 314-286-1473
_______________________________________

Question:  My 75-year-old mother is becoming unsteady on her feet. I am worried about her falling. Can anything be done to prevent an accident?

Answer:  Falls are very common in older adults usually resulting with an individual on the ground. One in three older adults (over the age of 60) will have at least one fall during their lifetime as they age. 

As the body ages, there can be a loss of bone density, muscle strength and reaction time. These changes can lead to imbalance during walking and potential for falling. After your mother receives a screening from her physician to eliminate neurologic or controllable medical causes for unsteadiness, a physical therapist can determine which impairments are causing your mother’s lost of balance.

There are many different exercises that can be prescribed to address the factors causing her instability. A safe walking program can be designed specifically for your mother to increase her strength and balance. She can also use resistance training to strengthen her feet and legs and stretching exercises to achieve the necessary movement and flexibility to move optimally.

Analysis of balance reactions and strategies used for movement will guide education for modification of movement to improve safety. It might be necessary to perform a home visit to identify and remove any obstacles or barriers, such as rugs or furniture, that may lead to a fall in your mother’s home.

Additionally, an analysis of how she performs her work or leisure activities will insure her safety in a variety of situations. New footwear or the use of a walking aide/device can also benefit someone who is prone to falling while walking.

If you feel your mother begins to have falls or loses her balance on a regular basis, it is important to seek treatment immediately. Physical Therapy can show you how to improve your balance to prevent fallings. Please contact your physician for a physical therapy referral so you can begin treatment.
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Copyright 2014 Washington University School of Medicine