How Occupational Therapists Can Mitigate Fall Risks with Older PatientsWendy Grieco
The role of an occupational therapist is to assist clients as they learn or practice essential skills and activities. Oftentimes, occupational therapists work with older patients who may be at higher risk for falling. As an occupational therapist, your duty is to reduce the risk of falling, especially under your care.
As part of your OT continuing education, you will learn why fall prevention is so important. The fact is that about one-third of seniors over the age of 65 fall down each year. This guide will help you learn more about mitigating the risks of patient falls during therapy and at home.
Understand the Common Causes of Falls
Falls can be caused by the environment, personal activity levels, and health factors. Occupational therapists should know the potential risks that often lead to falls.
Some older adults lack physical stability, which puts them at higher risk for falls. Women are at higher risk than men, especially if they have a history of falling in the past. Individuals who live a sedentary existence or who have been recently hospitalized will also be at higher risk.
Health factors may include illness, physical disabilities, medication, and even anxiety. Individuals prone to fatigue, dizziness, and panic are also at higher risk.
Establish Realistic Ideas of Risk
Fear of falling is actually a risk factor for falling, even in occupation therapy. Ironically, overestimating one’s abilities is also a risk factor. Occupational therapists must understand that an emotional component to falling does exist.
Address Leg Weakness
Falls can be fatal or lead to additional health issues. One of the first things you will learn about falls in OT continuing education is how to address weak leg muscles and poor balance to avoid injuries.
Strength training and other forms of therapy, like aquatics, are part of individualized plans that occupational therapists prepare for their clients regularly. Endurance training, which often consists of low-intensity aerobics over an extended period of time, also helps to build stamina and muscle.
Work on Practical Skills and Activities
Individuals with mobility skills must work on practical application of the skills they practice in occupational therapy. This means that you need to focus on helping your clients with activities they perform regularly, liking going up and down stairs or getting in and out of the shower. While you work on these skills, ensure that your client is focusing on one task at a time, focusing hard without distraction.
Know What to Do After a Fall
If your client falls down in therapy or at home, he or she should immediately seek medical treatment. Even if you do not see any visible injuries, a doctor will want to assess your client for internal injuries or potential future problems.
Prevent Falls at Home
Talk to your clients about the importance of keeping a clutter-free home to reduce falls. Discuss keeping items like rugs and electrical cords out of pathways where a client may trip. You should discuss how to set up good lighting and install handrails and bars that will assist your client in dangerous places.
Stay Up-to-Date on Occupational Therapy Practices
One way to improve the fall prevention plans you make for your clients is to stay educated about your industry’s practices though OT continuing education. PDH offers an occupational therapy course titled “Addressing Falls and Fear of Falling Among Older Adults.” Why not sign up for some of our Occupational Therapy Courses today?