Fall Prevention Awareness Week is underway. The National Council on Aging says falls are the leading cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries among older adults. The CDC reports that in 2019, falls caused over 34 thousand deaths among adults 65 and older and more than 3 million visits to the ER for older adults.

After a fall, some people need to be hospitalized and go through physical therapy before returning home.

“In the acute process, we work on just getting out of bed. Sitting tolerance, activity tolerance is big, especially in acute care,” said Christy LaTulip, Physical Therapist Assistant at the Physical Rehabilitation Center of Southwest Oklahoma.

She said seeing someone go from not being able to sit up progress to where they can sand is the best part of the job. LaTulip said everybody comes in at different levels.

“Sometimes people can stand up and take a few steps the first day, and yes, we progress a little bit more,” LaTulip said. “Let’s walk in the room, let’s walk down the hall, let’s go outside, let’s go to rehab, so we try to progress each day.”

She said they try to get their patients mobile and at the level of independence they were at before falling.

“So standing exercises, sitting exercises, balance retraining,” she said. “We just work on things that they would normally do at home, but they’re not able to do now. So, getting dressed, getting into the shower, just normal daily activities that they want to be able to do.”

LaTulip said not only are they trying to get their patients up and walking, but they also want to try to prevent another fall from happening.

“We try and educate patients on home safety,” she said. “Night lights are important at night, so if you’re getting up to go to the bathroom, you can see your surroundings, don’t get up too fast, and make sure that you’re not dizzy.”

She has seen several things cause a fall, like getting dressed, tripping off a curb, and slipping on ice, just to name a few. LaTulip said they try to talk to their patients about tripping hazards and what to do if they fall again.

“Down in inpatient recovery, we do fall recovery,” she said. “So if they do go home in fall, we teach them how to get up once they are home and experience a fall.”

She said they also do a lot of family training so families can help make sure their loved one’s home isn’t full of tripping hazards.

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