It’s no secret that a fall can drastically change the life of a resident of Anamosa and elsewhere, maybe even requiring a need for hospitalization, physical therapy, hospice care, or a move to a rehabilitation facility.
That’s why there are all sorts of programs and services that are designed to reduce the risk of falls, whether it’s encouraging more exercise or looking for ways to reduce any danger spots in your home.
The team at Above and Beyond Home Health Care and Hospice enjoy working with our clients to help teach them good habits and techniques to hopefully cut down on their fall risk. We also work with some clients who have had serious falls in the past and may still be recovering from them.
We also work hard to keep up on current research into how and why falls can happen and if anything can help them take place less or not be as painful. Because they can be so damaging – even deadly in certain circumstances – there’s a lot of studies taking place.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 3 million older people are treated annually in emergency departments for fall-related injuries. More than 800,000 must be hospitalized due to a serious injury from a fall, such as a fractured hip or a head or neck injury. Falls also lead to about 30,000 deaths a year. Beyond broken bones and head injuries, some falls can impact one’s mental state and mobility, not to mention decrease confidence.
Research shows that 1 in 4 people age 65 or older fall at least once a year, but less than half tell their doctor about it. One fall also doubles your risk of another fall, a fact that makes seniors especially cautious about doing anything that could cause another this to happen.
Unfortunately, this approach may end up backfiring and increasing fall risks – a growing fear of going outside can lead to depression and losing connections to friends and family. Not wanting to go walk or exercise regularly can eventually cause a loss of strength and flexibility, which are two factors that can actually help reduce fall risk and damage.
A recent study conducted at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis looked at falling from a different perspective. It looked at the factors that can cause a fall, such as a loss of balance, but it also looked at the possible role that dementia could play in increasing the odds of a fall.
It suggested that some falls may be caused by brain damage due to Alzheimer’s disease and that a fall should be considered a warning sign that this damage has already begun to occur.
Already, some research into Alzheimer’s stages has shown that they some symptoms may begin much earlier in someone’s life, but are rarely noticed until later in life when the brain is already seriously damaged and it’s easier to notice cognitive problems.
Because any problems are taking place at such a small level, they may not be noticed when someone is in their 40s or 50s. It isn’t until they’re in their 60s or 70s and begin to have major mental or physical problems that they are often diagnosed.
The study showed that older people who experience falls are more prone to have symptoms of dementia. It also is recommended that, based on this research, people who have experienced falls, regardless of age, should be screened for dementia.
This information was published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, and also advocated that medical experts come up with new strategies and treatment options to reduce fall risks, especially if there’s a greater connection to dementias that could be causing the fall.
Although it didn’t give any indication of what these new approaches can be but suggested it goes beyond the traditional effort of increasing strength and balance.
The study tracked about 80 participants who were over age 65 for a year. They were initially assessed as cognitively normal by a neurologist at the start of the study.
Each month they filled out a calendar and indicated if they had any falls. They also received regular brain scans that could show signs of advancing Alzheimer’s disease like atrophied proteins or the presence of amyloid proteins.
When researchers gathered the data, they found that degeneration and decay increased the risk of falling, especially in the neurodegeneration phase of the disease. This phase is often seen before more visible confusion and memory loss take place.
Although future treatment methods are still being developed to address fall risk due to dementia, experts recommend continuing precautions to keep from falling such as general balance problems or hazards in your home.
If you’d like to learn more about Alzheimer’s, this is a good opportunity.
November is National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month. The commemoration has officially been taking place since 1983 when President Ronald Reagan made this designation.
It’s an opportunity to discover different resources for you and your family if anyone is dealing with Alzheimer’s disease.