TOMS RIVER, NJ, January 27, 2009 – According
to the Home Safety Council, falls are the leading cause of non-fatal
unintentional injuries occurring in the home. More than 5.6 million
injuries are reported each year, as a result of someone slipping
or falling in their house. The majority of those who suffer from
a fall are older adults, who fall in the bathroom, kitchen or on
Although preventing all falls is impossible, improving balance
through exercise and ‘fall-proofing” the house can
greatly reduce the risk.
Marilyn Orr, director of Rehabilitation Services at Community
Medical Center, said the hospital treats a significant number of
adults every year who have fallen in the home, broken a bone and
require physical therapy or even surgery to heal.
“Unfortunately, many older adults experience a slip or fall
at some point in their lives. While some only are affected with
minor bruises or injuries, others suffer from major complications,
some of which can be life threatening for a very elderly person.”
She added, “Oftentimes, older adults become discouraged
and fear falling again. This can lead to an inactive lifestyle
and loss of independence.”
Orr said falls and the fear of falls can be prevented through
exercise, balance and changed behaviors. “Exercise works
to strengthen and sustain the older adult during everyday activities.
Activities that challenge balance help the body maintain normal
reactions and exercises improve the strength in the older adult
which is needed in order to catch him or herself before falling
completely.” Something as simple as walking through
grass rather than on the sidewalk helps maintain normal balance
Added muscle strength and control is what allows a person to transfer
from sitting to standing, getting up out of bed, chair or bathtub,
and also climbing stairs. There are techniques to improve balance
such as standing on one foot, walking heel to toe and taking a
rapid step forward or backward. “Adding challenges as you
progress, such as using only one hand then one hand to stabilize
yourself, will help to keep you strong and independent,” Orr
said. “But before you try any of these techniques, it is
a good idea to consult with your physician.” Taking a yoga
class or Tai Chi is a great way to improve strength and balance.
Orr said one of the easiest and most effective ways to prevent
injuries in the home is to undergo a simple safety check of the
house to identify and correct potential slip and fall hazards.
“Take a walk around the home and keep an eye out for anything
that might cause one to trip or fall. Three areas to look most
closely at are the bathroom, kitchen and stairways,” she
said and offered these tips to help safety-proof your home:
- Make sure all stairs and steps have banisters or hand rails
on both sides.
- Install adequate lighting, especially near stairs, hallways
and entrances to the home. Place light switches at both the top
and bottom of the stairs.
- Use nightlights to illuminate dark areas at night, especially
the path from the bedroom to the bathroom.
- Reduce clutter and always keep walkways clear of debris or
other items. This is especially important on stairways and landings.
- Use non-slip mats in the bathtub or shower which adheres to
the floor with adhesive or suction.
- Install permanent grab bars in the shower. Do not substitute
a towel rack or soap dish for a grab bar as they can some loose,
causing a fall.
- Wipe up water or other spills which can cause falls.
- Use non-skid backing or adhesive to anchor down throw rugs
or loose carpeting. Even better, remove all throw rugs.
However, Orr warned that despite following all of these precautions,
falls may still occur at home. “If a fall occurs, you should
seek medical help immediately, even if your injuries seem minor
at the time,” she said. “Some injuries may not reveal
themselves until later on or even the next day, causing more injury
or harm if left untreated.”
For patients who have suffered a fall and require therapy, Community
Medical Center offers a comprehensive outpatient rehabilitation
program conveniently located at 368 Lakehurst Road in Toms River.
A skilled team of therapists treats patients by making them stronger
so they can safely engage in functional activities such as standing,
walking or stair climbing. The highly trained rehabilitation staff
can also assist patients with balance disorders, so that they may
stay safer at home and help prevent falls.
To contact Community Medical Center’s Rehabilitation Department,
call (732) 557-3283
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