What You Can Learn About Healthcare From the Failure of Fall Prevention Programs

In the spring, I’m presenting to our statewide assisted living association on implementing facility-wide fall prevention policies. So I’ve spent a lot of time over the last few months reading through research on fall prevention for older adults.

Fall prevention is one of the most common problems faced by institutions that care for older adultsAccording to the CDC, fall death rates in the US increased by 30% from 2007 to 2016. If this rate continues, it’s anticipated there will be seven fall deaths every hour by 2030. It's obvious the problem is getting worse, despite efforts to prevent avoidable falls.

In my research, I’ve found a few problems. Namely, the discrepancy between what research has found actually works and how falls prevention programs are structured in real life. Not to mention the “fluffy” information available to the general public online.

Not only do most fall prevention programs not work, but we implement policies...

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Mobility is the Key to Healthspan

 

“Mobility is the key to survival: this came up again and again in my research.” -Bill Gifford

The medical field of aging is relatively new. It wasn’t until the last century that we saw an exponential increase in human life expectancy and as a result, we’ve only just started to study aging. And there is still a lot of gray area. One thing we know for sure is that there is huge variability in how we age.

And that there is a big difference between lifespan and healthspan. Thanks to modern medicine, we’ve seen a huge increase in lifespan over the last few decades. But unfortunately, that increase in lifespan doesn’t always accompany an increase in quality of life.

And this is where healthspan comes in. Healthspan is how many healthy years we can add to someone’s life. Because really, what’s the point of adding extra years if you can’t enjoy them?

Much of the findings of studies on aging have been...

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Fall Prevention Tips: Why You Need to Practice Falling

 

“Until you actually learn to fall, your nervous system will never truly know that it is actually safe to fall.” -Dr. Shante Cofield

I spend the majority of my time discussing concerns about falls with my clients, so it’s on my mind often. As a physical therapist specializing in empowering adults throughout the aging process, both the future and current risk of falls are the number one concern each of my clients express. And to guide them through this process, I have to help them analyze both the physical and psychological risk factors. Because they both play a major role.

Another one of my roles is to help all adults adopt forms of physical activity and exercise they enjoy. We’ve all heard the health benefits of physical activity, which are created by exposing ourselves to controlled stress. And this defines the actual purpose of exercise, or putting yourself in any uncomfortable situationTo allow your body to adapt by exposing yourself to...

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Book Review: Spring Chicken: Stay Young Forever by Bill Gifford

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning at no additional cost to you we will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

A few weeks ago I stumbled across a copy of the book Spring Chicken: Stay Young Forever by Bill Gifford. I keep a running list of books related to health and aging, but this one wasn’t on my list and caught my eye. I’m so happy I picked it up. The comprehensive information in the book blew me away. I will summarize a little bit below but I highly recommend picking up a copy.

The author of the book, Bill Gifford, is a journalist who became curious about aging after watching the very different aging trajectories of his great uncle and his grandfather. How could two siblings live such drastically different lives? His great uncle was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and died in his 70’s while his grandfather lived a very active and playful life, still farming into his 90’s when he suddenly passed...

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3 Mindsets Preventing You From Improving Your Balance (And What to Do About It)

 

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning at no additional cost to you we will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

Does your balance seem to keep getting worse no matter what you do? Never feel like you’re making meaningful progress?

If so, you aren’t alone. The inability to both set realistic health goals, especially for balance issues, and reach them is one of the most common concerns I hear from my clients at their first therapy visit. And as I get to know them, it’s clear why this is a recurring theme in their lives.

Many of us develop the bad habit of holding on to self-limiting beliefs, as Gay Hendricks does an excellent job of highlighting in The Big Leap: Conquer Your Hidden Fear and Take Life to the Next Level. These subconscious mindsets have the potential to limit all areas of our lives and are even more dangerous when we don’t realize we are holding onto them. And you may not realize how often...

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How Your Physical Health Relates to Your Mental Health

Brain health isn't a topic discussed often enough, particularly within the medical community. On the bright side, the topics of mental health and access to mental health services have come to light in the last few years. But, the aging brain is often left out of the conversation.

There are many unanswered questions about the decline in brain health with aging. The medical profession is starting to observe the differences in adults who experience brain atrophy and those who don’t. So, we're gaining some clarity. But, there's still so much we don't know.
 
The research identified some clear patterns in those who receive a diagnosis of dementia. But, keep in mind that patterns don't always give a clear cause. We know fall risk increases with increasing mental decline. We know poor mental health increases the risk of developing dementia. We know a connection exists between muscle weakness and dementia. What isn't as clear is why.
 
This is the 2nd part in a...
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What is a Floor Transfer?

 

Why do we care so much about your ability to get on and off the floor?
 
Because the ability to get on and off the floor without the use of your hands is a strong physical predictor of early disability and death.
 
This is why one of the first skills we cover with new clients is getting on and off the floor. Not only is this a life-saving skill but it's also one of our favorite exercises for healthy aging!
 
There are an infinite number of ways you can get on and off the floor, as well as unlimited options for sitting positions once you are on the floor. The confidence to know you can safely and easily get off the floor decreases your future risk of falls!
 
If you're currently able to get yourself on and off the floor, continue to practice this skill daily. If you are unsure, see a physical or occupational therapist for a floor transfer test. 
 
A floor transfer test is nothing fancy. As shown in the pictures above, the...
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Alignment 101: Alignment Tips for Foot Health

Happy, healthy feet are the key to healthy movement. As we've said before, your feet are the foundation of your body. You wouldn’t want a foundation of a house that's not aligned, so you don't want the same from the foundation of your body.

Again, when it comes to alignment we want to stress that the ultimate goal is not perfectionThe goal is to recognize that how you move plays a huge role in how your body functions. If you're striving to change your movement, explore your movement habits using alignment points.
 
Better foot alignment will optimize your walking, stabilize your core, and improve your balance. Maintaining correct foot alignment requires mobility of the joints and strength of the muscles of your feet. The more mobile your foot and ankle, the better they absorb reaction force of walking. This reduces the reaction force that goes through your hips and knees, leaving your joints happy and healthy. In the end, walking with rigid feet demands...
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Quick Test: Are Your Hips Actually Weight-Bearing?

In order for your hips to be building bone density through the day, they need to be supporting the weight of your pelvis and torso in a certain alignment. 


A common pattern we see with resting standing positions is standing with the pelvis pushed slightly forward (as in the first picture). It's subtle but has major implications for bone health of the hips (not to mention the long term impact of this position on foot health, core strength, and balance).

Shifting the pelvis back so your body weight is carried over the heels (second picture) and maintaining this position throughout the day allows for optimal bone health. However, getting to this position if this is not your usual requires taking a closer look at the muscle groups that attach to the pelvis. 

A quick and simple test to help you determine where you carry your center of mass: make a plumb line from string with something weighted at the bottom. Position yourself facing sideways toward a mirror and find the boniest...

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Try This Quick Test for Balance

A quick test for balance: how long are you able to stand on one leg without arm support? 

To set up: keep a chair or something you can hold if needed nearby and stand in front of a mirror with your feet hip width apart, shoes and socks off. Place your hands on your hips, shift your weight to one side and pick your opposite foot off the floor. How long can you hold this position?

An adult around age 30 should be able to comfortably hold this position for 30 seconds. In adults over age 65, an inability to hold this for at least 5 seconds indicates a greater risk of falls. Were you surprised by your results? 

We often get asked why we spend so much time practicing single leg standing in therapy. This skill is important because this is the position we spend the most amount of time in while walking! In order to take a step forward, you have to stand on one leg to allow the other leg to swing forward. If you are having difficulty with single leg standing, it is likely your walking...

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