By Stephen Lair
Fall prevention has become a hot topic in the world of health care the past few years, and with good reason. Falls are the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries for older Americans. One-fourth of Americans aged 65+ falls each year, and more than 2.8 million injuries are treated in emergency departments annually. The financial toll for older adult falls is expected to increase as the population ages and may reach $67.7 billion by 2020. Whether a fall results in injury or not, it carries a heavy quality of life impact. Many seniors fear falling and, as a result, limit their activities and social engagements. This can result in further physical decline, depression, social isolation, and feelings of helplessness.
The good news is that falls can be prevented. Falling is not an inevitable result of aging. It’s often an issue of poor balance or loss of strength. Through practical lifestyle adjustments, fall prevention programs, and clinical-community partnerships, the number of falls among seniors can be substantially reduced.
One such prevention program is with Home Instead Senior Care of Chapel Hill and Mobile Rehab, based in Pittsboro. “Through our friends at Mobile Rehab, we want to change the perception of physical therapy from something you do to recover from a fall to something you do to prevent a fall,” said Stephen Lair, owner of Home Instead Senior Care of Chapel Hill. “When we see a client who can benefit from a preventive therapy program, we contact Mobile Rehab to get them set up with the OTAGO fall prevention program.”
The OTAGO fall prevention program, created in New Zealand, is designed to be administered by a physical therapist in the home setting. It consists of strength, range of motion, balance, and walking components, and is one of the best current solutions for proactive fall prevention. The program is evidence-based, covered by many insurance programs, and has been shown to reduce falls by 35-40% in older adults.
“We’ve seen excellent results with our patients using the OTAGO program,” said Joshua Cohen, physical therapist for Mobile Rehab. “They’re stronger and more confident, and even if they have a little stumble the injury isn’t nearly as severe.” The goal of OTAGO is helping older adults remain independent and safe in their own homes for as long as possible. It improves the patient's quality of life, but also reduces medical costs overall by avoiding serious falls.
The OTAGO program is generally administered once a month over the course of a year. While the program must be administered by a physical therapist to ensure safety and adapt the program for any chronic conditions, the CAREGivers at Home Instead can continue the healthy interaction by assisting with daily activities like taking a walk, preparing meals, bathing, and transportation.
Advances like these in the world of senior care go a long way toward helping older adults live healthy, active lives in their own homes. “We love providing the care needed to help our clients thrive in their own homes,” said Lair. “We’re thrilled to partner with Mobile Rehab to offer proactive, in-home services to prevent injury and keep seniors safe and active.”
For more information on OTAGO or Mobile Rehab, please visit www.mobilerehabnc.com, or contact Home Instead Senior Care of Chapel Hill.
Home Instead offers free monthly newsletters with tips and advice for caregivers of elderly loved ones.
Each Home Instead Senior Care franchise is independently owned and operated.