Falls are the leading cause of injury and accidental death in adults over the age of 65. Falls and the fear of falling can cause decreased independence and disability. Clutter, inappropriate footwear, poor balance, distractions, and tripping hazards can all contribute to a stumble or fall leading to serious injury and even death. Occupational therapy practitioners play an essential role in reducing fall risk by addressing the physical, cognitive, and environmental factors that can lead to a fall.
“If the home or other environment is not supporting the person’s abilities, the occupational therapist can provide an assessment and recommendations to make it safer and encourage participation in meaningful activities,” says Karen Smith, OT, CAPS, Practice Associate for the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA).
AOTA offers the following strategies to reduce your risk of falls:
- Identify and eliminate fall hazards in the home.
- Arrange furniture so that there is plenty of room to maneuver and to create sturdy balance-catching points throughout the home.
- Remove or firmly secure throw rugs.
- Add railings and grab bars in trouble areas.
- Install nonslip strips or rubber mats in tubs and showers and in areas that pose a tripping or slipping risk.
- Add light to dimly lit areas.
- Keep frequently-used items in easily accessible areas. Create a plan for accessing seasonal items stored in hard-to-reach places.
- Consider environmental modifications, assistive technology, or adaptive equipment.
- Consult an occupational therapist for an individualized fall risk assessment.
- Talk to your physician and pharmacist about how medications can affect balance, strength, vision, and fall risk.
- Get an annual eye exam.
- Stay active and participate in regular exercise.
- Maintain a healthy sleep schedule.
This year’s Falls Prevention Awareness Day is Sept. 22, 2013 — the first day of fall. Sponsored annually by the National Council On Aging, this year's theme, “Preventing Falls—One Step at a Time,” seeks to unite professionals, older adults, caregivers, and family members to play a part in raising awareness and preventing falls in the older adult population. Forty-three states participated in Falls Prevention Awareness Day last year, joining more than 70 national organizations.
Occupational therapy is a skilled health, rehabilitation, and educational service that helps people across the lifespan participate in the things they want and need to do through the therapeutic use of everyday activities (occupations). Every day across the U.S., occupational therapy practitioners work with older adults and caregivers to educate them on strategies and behaviors to reduce fall risk and facilitate maximum independence. This may include recommending and using home modifications and assistive technology to support aging in place.
To learn more about fall prevention, visit www.aota.org to download a tip sheet.
Founded in 1917, the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) represents the professional interests and concerns of more than 140,000 occupational therapists, assistants, and students nationwide. The Association educates the public and advances the profession of occupational therapy by providing resources, setting standards including accreditations, and serving as an advocate to improve health care. Based in Bethesda, Md., AOTA’s major programs and activities are directed toward promoting the professional development of its members and assuring consumer access to quality services so patients can maximize their individual potential. For more information, go to www.aota.org.
To schedule an interview with an occupational therapy practitioner who specializes in fall prevention and home modification, call Media Relations Manager Katie Riley, 301-652-6611, ext. 2963, or e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org.