With winter fast approaching, it is important to stay aware of the dangers that the festive season brings along with it.  Drop in temperature and precipitation can lead to icy roads and sidewalks and this is important as falls are one of the leading cause of injury-related hospitalizations among seniors in Canada, with close to 30% of seniors falling each year (Public Health Agency of Canada, 2016).  Falls are responsible for multiple disabilities, deaths, and negative health outcomes such as fear of falling, loss of autonomy, isolation, confusion, immobilization, and depression.   Aside from the negative outcomes, they also put immense pressure on public health care costs, which deepens the importance of preventions strategies for older adults (Public Health Agency of Canada, 2016). 

 

Why do falls occur?

Falls occur due to a compound of risk factors that cause one to lose their balance.  Risk factors can be broken down into biological/intrinsic factors and behavioural factors (Public Health Agency of Canada). man falls

Biological (intrinsic)

  1. Acute illness – pain, fever, nausea, and dizziness can contribute to a fall.  Be especially careful with potential side effects from medications and from common illnesses. 
  2. Balance/gait deficiencies – balance can be affected by physical, biomechanical, and cognitive changes in the body.  Come talk to one of our physiotherapists at Burquitlam Physiotherapy to receive a biomechanial/postural screening assessment and to correct your gait deficiencies.  
  3. Low vision – decreases in visual field, and clarity can result in compromised balance.  Make sure to obtain a clear visual path before walking or avoid walking in hazardous conditions. 
  4. Muscle weakness and reduced fitness – weak muscular endurance and strength can leave one vulnerable to losing their balance and falling.  Our physiotherpists at Burquitlam Physiotherapy will teach you exercises and tips to stay active and keep up your strength.  

 

Behavioural

  1. Assistive devices – over-reliance on a walker or a cane can lead to imbalances and fear of walking.  Our physiotherapists will kindly show you correct ways to use devices or to avoid using them if necessary.  
  2. Excessive alcohol – excessive alcohol is one of the leading causes of fatal falls.
  3. Footwear and clothing – shoes with good traction are always recommended! 
  4. Fear of falls – fear of falling may lead to decreased physical activity, which can result in muscle weakness and reduced fitness. 
  5. Medications – certain medications may lead to drowsiness and low blood pressure, which can affect your balance.  Go talk to your doctor to be aware of any medications that may affect you. 

 

How can we reduce falls?

First of all, go and have a chat with your family doctor.  Ask your doctor for an outline of your medications to see if you need to be cautious of any side effects that may lead or contribute to a the occurrence of a fall.  Double-check on footwear and clothing as shoes with weak traction can be particularly dangerous during winter.  Always have a clear visual path to where you’re walking and be aware of your surroundings or any hazards.  Lastly, refrain from heavy alcohol consumption to reduce the chance of losing your balance. 

If you are unsure or anxious about any of the factors above, come see one of our physiotherapists at Burquitlam Physiotherapy for a biomechanics and postural screening exam, as well as an assessment of your balance and gait.  Our physiotherapists are experts in the musculoskeletal system and are happy to answer your questions whether it is just a consultation or the beginning of a road to recovery. 

If you have any questions, give us an email to askburquitlamphysio@gmail.com

Sources:

Public Health Agency of Canada. (2016). Seniors’ Falls in Canada: Second Report. Retrieved from: http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/seniors-aines/publications/public/injury-blessure/seniors_falls-chutes_aines/index-eng.php