At Glenhaven Physiotherapy, we always aim to work along with government health initiatives, and the Falls Prevention Program is no exception. An undertaking of the NSW government’s Clinical Excellence Commission, its goal is to address the growing problem of serious falls suffered by people aged 65 or older.
As noted on the CEC’s website, falls in elderly persons account for the most hospital presentations (more than 27,000 annually!) and highest cost to the health system in this state. Also, this increasing number of falls results in a high number of deaths (currently 400 annually), some of which could have been prevented.
The CEC has identified five key areas in which improvements should reduce the incidence of falls in over-65s: frailty, cognitive impairment, poor mobility, medication and nutrition. The good news is that professional physiotherapy can help with two of those directly and may assist with the other three indirectly, either on a pre-emptive basis or as part of an elderly fall recovery program.
Physio to Prevent Frailty
Physiotherapy seeks to strengthen bones and muscles, through individually tailored exercise, massage and forming better movement habits in daily life. Someone who is following their physio’s advice in these departments is less likely to grow frail “before their time”, and thus less likely to suffer a serious fall.
As well as staving off the onset of frailty as part of falls prevention, physiotherapy can help an individual who has already injured themselves in a tumble regain their physical strength as part of elderly fall rehab.
Physio to Improve Mobility
Continuing with the point on elderly fall recovery, the physio in charge will be concentrating on restoring any mobility lost due to the accident, and, ideally, taking the patient’s mobility beyond where it was previously in order to minimise subsequent falls.
Thus, the key area of poor mobility identified by the CEC’s Falls Prevention Program is something with which physiotherapy can definitely help – via strength exercises, stamina exercises and the “unlearning” of bad habits (movement retraining).
Physio & Cognitive Impairment
While a physio program can directly contribute to falls prevention through preventing frailty and improving mobility, it may also assist to a degree with cognitive impairment. Many studies have shown that exercise has a positive effect on mental health, and there is evidence that exercising on a regular basis even reduces the risk of developing both dementia and Alzheimer’s. Few would deny that exercise alleviates stress and builds confidence – very important for those undergoing elderly fall rehab.
Physio & Nutrition
While a physiotherapist is not a dietitian, they are likely to take an interest in your eating plan, since this goes hand in hand with the exercises they are prescribing. Obviously, they will want to ensure you are getting sufficient nutrients to strengthen your bones and muscles, and boost your mobility. In this indirect way, physio may assist with nutrition as it pertains to falls prevention. Elderly fall recovery would definitely focus on diet as a healing tool and pathway to future health and safety.
Physio & Medication
Physiotherapy is not a replacement for medication. Indeed, the two often go together. However, for some medications, e.g. painkillers, correcting musculoskeletal imbalances through physio might ultimately lessen or even eliminate their need in certain cases. Whether we’re talking falls prevention or elderly fall rehab, if achieving a higher level of fitness results in smaller doses or less medications overall, and therefore fewer side effects that could potentially lead to falling (drowsiness, slower reaction times, etc.), that can only be a good thing.
For Rehab from Falls (and Other Musculoskeletal Injuries)
The team at Glenhaven Physiotherapy has been providing high-quality, patient-focused therapy to Glenhaven and surrounding Sydney suburbs since 1991. We pride ourselves on professional development and always stay up to date with the latest advancements. Contact us by emailing , phoning (02) 9680 4960 or using the enquiry form on this site.