Getting Back Up After a Fall

December 26, 2013 | Found In:  Aging

64Falls are the leading cause of injury and death by injury in people aged 65 and over, making fall prevention awareness a priority for all seniors. Taking steps to reduce your risk, however, does not guarantee that you will avoid a fall. Thus, it is also important to be knowledgeable about the recovery process. Recovery after a fall can be slow and frustrating, and for many seniors balance and gait are never quite the same. Indeed, some link a single bad fall to a subsequent downward spiral in health and mobility. Being knowledgeable and prepared, though, can have a significant impact on post-fall physical and mental well-being.

A recent Yale University study explored the most influential factors on post-fall recovery. The study methodology was impressive, as researchers followed 754 seniors for 14 years. This longitudinal study design allowed the researchers to draw the conclusion that the single most important predictor of post-fall recovery is the pre-fall health and functional status. In other words, those individuals who were mobile and generally healthy prior to a fall tended to recover more quickly and fully than those with pre-existing conditions. Older adults who had no or a mild disability prior to a fall actually experienced a fairly quick recovery time of just six months while those with moderate disability tended to recover within one year. Older adults with more serious detriments prior to the fall had longer and more complicated recovery trajectories.

These are important findings because typically, post-fall recovery data tends to paint a generally grim picture of life after falls. Having a more realistic and evidence-based understanding of post-fall recovery can be hugely instrumental in helping seniors and their loved ones plan for life after a fall. For example, if an older adult was functioning pretty well prior to a fall, pursuing a more aggressive rehabilitation program can be important in ensuring that he or she recovers fully and regains maximum independence. On the other hand, if an individual was already at a highly compromised functional status and severely limited mobility prior to a fall, pursing a rehabilitation plan that is too aggressive and doesn’t consider the use of potential aids such as scooters or walkers can be disheartening and frustrating for the fall survivor.

An element that is often neglected in the fall literature and deserves further attention is that of the psychological impact of a fall. Addressing the psychological impacts (e.g., depressive symptomatology, such as increased tearfulness or feelings of disconnection from friends and neighbors) can be as pivotal to quality of life as the physical aspects of recovery.

Have you or a loved one recently experienced a fall? Share any tips for recovery that you found especially helpful in the comment box below or on our Facebook page!


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