Published on April 12, 2021

Occupational Therapy Month: Preventing Falls with Occupational and Physical Therapy

April is Occupational Therapy Month. Occupational Therapy helps people of all ages do the things they want and need to do through therapeutic use of daily activities. Occupational therapy professionals enable people of all ages to live life to its fullest by helping them promote health and prevent (or live better with) injury, illness, or disability.April is Occupational Therapy Month

What is Occupational Therapy?

Common occupational therapy interventions include helping children with disabilities to participate fully in school and social situations, helping people recovering from injury to regain skills, and providing supports for older adults experiencing physical and cognitive changes. Occupational therapy services typically include:

  • an individualized evaluation, during which the client/family and occupational therapist determine the person’s goals,
  • customized intervention to improve the person’s ability to perform daily activities and reach goals,
  • an outcomes evaluation to ensure that the goals are being met and/or make changes to the intervention plan. 

Occupational therapy practitioners have a holistic perspective, in which the focus is on adapting the environment and/or task to fit the person, and the person is an integral part of the therapy team.

Occupational Therapy and Fall Prevention

Many individuals are at risk of falling. One out of five falls causes a serious injury such as broken bones or a head injury. Here are some other facts about falls:

  • Each year, 3 million older people are treated in emergency departments for fall injuries.
  • Over 800,000 patients a year are hospitalized because of a fall injury, most often because of a head injury or hip fracture.
  • Each year at least 300,000 older people are hospitalized for hip fractures.
  • More than 95% of hip fractures are caused by falling, usually by falling sideways.
  • Falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries (TBI).

So how do you know if you are at risk of falling? Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you feel less steady on your feet than you did one year ago?
  • Have you had a fall recently?
  • Do you ever lose your balance or feel dizzy?
  • Do you have a fear of falling?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you may have an increased risk of falling.

The components of preventing falls are:

  • Strength – Strength is important for the response of your body after a balance disturbance. Testing can identify weakness and, if necessary, exercises can be suggested to improve ankle and leg strength.
  • Balance – Normal balance is controlled by a complex combination of visual, muscular, and neurological systems. Together these systems keep individuals from falling when encountering a sudden loss of balance. Testing and exercise will improve your ability to remain upright during challenging conditions.
  • Walking Speed and Step Length – Older adults typically have a slower walking speed. Steps may also be shorter and vary in length. Speed and step length help our bodies maintain balance. Testing and exercise may help you learn how to walk more safely and confidently.
  • Environmental Modifications – In some cases, the set-up of your home may limit your independence with certain activities such as showering and cooking. Education and instruction on possible changes to your home may improve your ability and safety when attempting these activities. These modifications and knowledge of proper use of equipment will decrease your risk of falls at home.
  • General Health – Living a healthy lifestyle, keeping blood sugars and medications at a therapeutic level will help decrease your risk for falls.

One of the programs occupational therapists at Fisher-Titus help with is the Ready to be Steady Fall Prevention Program which works on all the components of fall prevention.

Ready to Be Steady

The Ready to be Steady program at Fisher-Titus is based on well-established research. Physical and occupational therapists will collaborate with you and assess your individual needs to prevent falls. Our team is dedicated to helping you improve your safety and mobility as well as increase your independence with activities you complete daily.

During your first visit, you will receive an evaluation from a licensed therapist that will include:

  • Screening of general health, medical, and surgical histories, and a review of medications.
  • Assessment of your strength, flexibility, balance, and gait.
  • Completion of a functional outcome assessment.
  • Customized goals and program.

Additional visits to Fisher-Titus will consist of:

  • Exercising to improve strength, balance, walking speed, step length, and flexibility.
  • Establishing exercises to complete at home with little or no equipment.
  • Practicing everyday activities to ensure you are completing them safely.
  • Establishing methods to maximize safety in the home environment.

Your care team may add a home evaluation to determine possible fall hazards and come up with solutions environmental solutions.

During your final Ready to be Steady visit, you and your therapist will:

  • Review home programs.
  • Send progress report to your physician.
  • Address any questions you may have.