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The ever present danger of falls for seniors

Fall prevention harness
Posted at 5:33 PM, Sep 16, 2014
and last updated 2014-09-16 17:33:00-04

SARASOTA, Fla. -- According to the Agency for Health Care Research and Quality, accidental falls are the most common cause of non-fatal injuries for people 65 and older in the U.S., and the most common cause of accidental death in that same age group.

Imagine not being able to go for a walk, cook, or even get to the bathroom without help? For many seniors, falling results in injuries that take a long time to get over, and sometimes they never heal.

85-year-old Sandy Lewis doesn't want to fall, so she's in physical therapy. “I am weak, my body is weak, and so my walking is affected and I do have stenosis.”

She says she's cautious in her own home. “I'm cautious when I walk, I'm cautious with my carpets, and I am aware of falling, because my friend just fell.”

Lewis's friend she says hurt herself very badly from tripping over a shoe. And she is not alone.

“On the Suncoast, falls are a big issue.” Chip Fisher of Fyzsical Therapy and Balance Centers says one in every three people over the age of sixty five are estimated to fall this year. There are several reasons. “One is vision issues, hearing issues, balance, strength, as well as it could be a medication issue.”

People often lose their independence due to falls, says Michael Jones of Comfort Keepers. “They're unable to stay at home and do some of the activities of daily living, and then they need help at home.”

Depending on the severity of the fall or break, he says they'll need help with daily activities like meal preparations, and standing for any length of time. “Transfering out of bed to the commode, in the shower, getting out to the grocery store, getting to their doctor's appointments, doing the laundry…all of the household items. And that's what we help them with.”

Fyzical aims to prevent falls in people with balance disorders and dizzyiness, and help the injured through physical therapy. “We work on their balance reactions, and strength conditioning, and also better awareness of how to prevent a fall from happening.”

An overhead support system with a harness coming down from the ceiling helps people with balance issues. “Put the harness on the client and they can't fall, we can challenge their balance to the nth degree and they have no risk of falling. This is great because pre-fall or post-fall there's a fear of falling and we want people to overcome that.”

The anti-gravity treadmill is for those that are in the most pain, that are unable to use wither the harness or even go in the pool. Air pressure relieves some body weight, and supports patients during recovery from injuries, or surgery. The monitor lets you know of faulty footing on your part.

“We have an underwater treadmill, hydro works pool, so aquatics therapy.”

The pool also sports a camera and monitor. “This is called the Biodex Balance System, and it actually can assess your risk of falling. But not only that, it can be used as a tool to improve your balance as well.”

Fisher says the majority of falls he sees occur because people aren’t paying attention, and they didn't have to happen.

The best way to prevent a fall is definitely before it happens.