(4/9/12) In recognition of all the ways occupational therapy contributes to society's well-being, April has been designated as Occupational Therapy Month.
The occupational therapists at Black River Memorial Hospital’s Rehabilitation Services Department have joined in this celebration and during the month will have an educational display at the hospital.
Members of the hospital’s occupational therapy staff are Nicole Schweitzer, Stacy Armitage, Heather Rogers and Heather Comstock. Comstock says that millions of people around the world utilize occupational therapy services. “Occupational therapists assist people of all ages in participating in the activities of their daily life,” she explains. “We help them learn or regain skills that are meaningful to them ranging from dressing, bathing, and safely performing bathroom transfers to working, driving, shopping, and even preparing a meal. These services are beneficial in so many circumstances of illness or injury, such as for a worker injured on the job to a grandparent recovering from surgery, a stroke or a fall.”
Comstock says one area they will be focusing on during the month is fall prevention in older adults. “Preventing falls in the older adult population is so important because one of every three adults age 65 or older in the United States falls each year,” she says. “Among older adults, falls are the leading cause of injury deaths and are most common for non-fatal injuries and hospital admissions for trauma.”
She also stressed that falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries and that most fractures among older adults are caused by falls. “Up to 25 percent of adults who lived independently before a hip fracture had to stay in a long-term care facility for at least one year after sustaining their fracture,” said Comstock. “These statistics are alarming and we need to educate the public on the importance of fall prevention, especially in older adults.”
If you are an older adult, exercise has been the main single intervention studied and there is much evidence that exercise can prevent falls in older people. Muscle weakness is a significant risk factor for falls. If you engage in a walking program, another balance exercise should be added. Be sure to consult a physician before beginning an exercise program.
People should have a yearly eye exam to check for changes in vision and to keep their eye glasses prescription up-to-date. Vision gives the body important cues to help maintain balance. Decreased depth perception is associated with tripping falls, so take caution on steps, curbs, inclines and uneven surfaces, especially if wearing multi-focal lenses.
Have prescription and non-prescription medications reviewed by a physician or pharmacist on a regular basis. “The side effects from various kinds of medication and interactions between medications can cause drowsiness or dizziness, which can result in a fall,” Comstock says. “Medications for sleep, mood, pain, and blood pressure can increase a person’s risk for a fall. If a person already has risk factors associated with falling, then they will have increased risk from medications. Do not stop taking prescription medications without discussing with your doctor.”
Older adults can also reduce fall hazards both inside and outside of their home. Both an in-home assessment and environmental modifications are important prevention strategies to reduce fall injuries and deaths.
If you have any questions on fall prevention or want information on how to assess your risk for falls, contact Black River Memorial Hospital’s Rehabilitation Services Department at 715-284-1330. The Rehabilitation Department also offers a 10 week exercise class for seniors.