Get Better at Preventing Falls
Hope everyone enjoyed the snow day off! Might as well run this again. Be careful on the ice!
After last week’s snow storm, NYC was left with not only a snowy mess, but also some pretty slippery sidewalks due to the rain that followed this weekend, in conjunction with the erratic bouts of warm and cold temperatures we’ve been experiencing lately. Sheets of ice still coat the city in several areas and, needless to say, we’ve likely experienced a recent rise in the rate of falls…
I know I slipped and had to catch myself on more than one occasion after this storm, saw others do the same and a few actually fall pretty hard. I can only imagine how the less reactive population is holding up – which brings me to the point of this post.
Our Advanced Concepts students just learned all about hip replacement surgeries, many of which are done after falls fracture the hip of an older adult. And that’s the good outcome…A high percentage of older adults who fall and fracture their hips die within a year’s time of hospitalization. Clearly, we need to be training people – especially our older clients – to prevent falls, and we need to be doing it better, because it’s often a matter of life and death.
What does fall prevention entail, you ask? Great question – because if you’re envisioning a bunch of old people standing on one leg for “better balance,” you’re pretty far off the mark.
In order to effectively prevent falls, we must first ask ourselves why they occur. Sure, icy sidewalks set the stage for disaster; but our elders also fall quite frequently in the absence of slippery conditions. So what gives?
For starters, an inability to effectively react to forces that throw us off balance puts us at heightened risk for falls when icy patches or uneven sidewalks catch us off guard. We can stand on one leg all day but it won’t do much for our ability to respond quickly enough to regain our balance before we hit the ground. So a vital component of fall prevention is reaction time – hence my earlier reference to being “reactive.”
Another essential component is strength. Even if our reaction time is top notch, we still have to be able to produce sufficient force to regain our center of mass over our base of support (i.e., balance). We also need to do this quickly, which means power is even more important. So these are also crucial elements for an older adult’s training program – especially in preparation for this time of year.
Bottom line: If you think strength, power and reaction time sound like training variables for athletes, think again. They’re even more important for older adults – because at the end of the day, they could save their lives.
Stay tuned for upcoming dates for our “Fall Prevention Strategies” continuing education course!