At a “Lunch, Learn, and Live” presentation April 25 at St. Luke Hospital, physical therapist Sheryl Simmonds spoke to the crowd about things they can do to prevent falls, as well as the wide variety of areas physical therapy can offer help with.
Simmonds said a study showed more than one-third of older adults suffer a fall each year — although she could never find how “older adult” was defined for the study. Falls are the leading cause of both fatal and non-fatal accidents and hospital visits for trauma among older adults, she added.
Joint and muscle weakness, especially of the ankles and knees, are leading risk factors for falls. Other common risk factors include depression and certain medications or combinations of medications.
There are steps people can take to reduce the risk of suffering a fall, Simmonds said. Improving posture is one of the first things a person can do to reduce the chance they will have a bad fall. People can also strengthen their knees and ankles during the normal course of the day. Practicing balance exercises while brushing teeth or washing dishes can help without taking any extra time out of the day.
Simmonds also urged the crowd to get up and move while television is on commercials. Studies have also shown that practicing tai chi reduces the risk of falling, which makes sense because of its focus on balance, she said.
Simmonds said one of the things she likes about her job is that it is different every day. The youngest patient she has ever worked with was 10 days old; that same day, she did an assessment for a 107-year-old patient.
Physical therapists work with patients of all activity levels, from sedentary elderly patients to young athletes.
She said that physical therapy includes such a broad range of care that even while studying to become a physical therapist, she was surprised by some of the things she learned physical therapists do — such as wound care.