As a healthcare professional who regularly works with elderly patients I am keenly aware of the negative effect of falls; on numerous occasions, I have seen a fall change the quality of an individual’s life.
The statistics about falls are startling. According to recent research papers and John Hopkins University:
• Falls are a leading cause of hospital admissions
• One third of people over the age of 65 will have a fall this year
• 40% of nursing home admissions are directly related to a fall
• A fall causes close to 75% of all fractures occur in people aged 65 and over
• 90% of all hip fractures occur after a fall
• One fall can impair a senior’s ability to live independently
Although these stats are grim, we have the power to change them as many falls can be prevented. Fall prevention is best managed through a multi-disciplinary approach and your Canadian Certified Pedorthist plays a key role as wearing appropriate, proper fitting footwear is the first line of defense.
Your Pedorthist will assess your gait and biomechanics and then recommend, and professionally fit, the most appropriate footwear for you. Depending on your individual needs, your Pedorthist may recommend custom foot orthotics or orthopaedic shoes to improve your mobility. If arthritis makes tying laces difficult, make sure you select easy-to-fasten Velcro closures to eliminate the risk of tripping over an untied lace or out of an open shoe.
Once you have purchased footwear with good, non-slip treads remember to check the soles regularly. Worn soles lose their grip and are particularly dangerous if you are walking on uneven, icy or slippery terrain. If you’re not sure if they need replacing, take them to your next pedorthic appointment and ask.
Although, in Canada, it is customary to remove our shoes when we enter a home, as we age, wearing supportive, non-slip shoes all the time helps to prevent falls. Socked feet easily slip on linoleum or hardwood and slippers tend to be flimsy and ill-fitting so they can become tripping hazards. If you are uncomfortable wearing your outdoor shoes indoors, buy a second pair for indoor use only.
In addition to footwear and gait issues, the following can increase your risk of a fall:
• balance issues
• weak muscles and stiff joints
• dizziness
• medication and alcohol use
• rushing to the washroom
• vision/hearing trouble
• concentration problems
• neglect of safety
If you are experiencing any of the above, your doctor, pharmacist, optometrist and pedorthist will work together to minimize your risk of a life changing fall.
By Jim Pattison, C. Ped (C), Prince Albert, Saskatchewan