Simple exercises could prevent painful falls involving the elder - KAIT-Jonesboro, AR-News, weather, sports

Preventing falls involving seniors

An older adult ends up in the emergency room due to a fall every 18 seconds.

These falls can cause moderate to severe injuries including hip fractures and head traumas which, in some cases, can lead to an early death.

In addition to the pain and suffering, the medical bills, alone, can be staggering.

Most falls, however, can be prevented by improving one's coordination and balance.

Charlotte, NC, resident Joseph LaChance uses a walker to get around, but he's quite active for a 79-year-old. He exercises at least three times a week, and for good reason, at an adult daycare center called The Ivey.

"My knees have just buckled on me," LaChance said.

While it appears to be just fun and games, LaChance and his friends frequently engage in activity that may actually help them prevent future falls and, consequently, suffering long-term health problems.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2006, falls were responsible for 1.8 million emergency room visits by Americans 65 and older. In 2008, the number jumped to 2.1 million.

These numbers are expected to climb even higher as Baby Boomers grow older and the aging population swells.

The AARP says nearly 23,000 deaths a year are linked to falls, and that's why physical therapists like Radhia Magoma refers to falls as a gateway to more severe complications.

"They can cause injury, they can cause poor self esteem, and one of the side effects of falls is fear, it develops a fear of falling, decreases mobility and decreases ambulation," Magoma said. "They become dependent on a wheelchair, it's like a cascading effect of all the negative things that lead to early dependent position in bed—bedridden—or just loss of quality of life."

Walking is one of the best ways to improve your balance and coordination. According to the Mayo Clinic, there are over 250 known benefits to walking.

"Walking helps your cardiovascular, it helps your mental acuity, it helps your digestion," Magoma said.

In addition to walking, inexpensive items like a foam tube, ball and balloon can also help improve your strength. 

Exercising with a foam tube is especially helpful for those suffering from arthritis.

"Holding the foam and going up and down promotes bilateral range of motion, and use of your body," Magoma said.

Placing a ball between your knees can improve strength in your legs.

"I'm actually having to engage my core to stop from falling backwards, so it is a postural benefit," Magoma said while demonstrating the second exercise. "I'm using my own muscle energy to hold and squeeze the ball."

For the third exercise, LaChance and his friends gathered in a small circle. Sitting in an upright position, they used good posture and worked the core part of their body to strike the balloon.

It doesn't matter if you're pouncing a balloon or tossing a bean bag, your local Area Agencies on Aging or AARP will know of places near you with activities for older adults. 

Experts say, you should get active doing some type of exercise because it decreases stress, depression, arthritis processes, and pain. Ultimately, it will allow an aging adult to stay more mobile and independent.

In the time you have read this story, nine older adults have ended up in the emergency room due to a fall.

That's exactly why LaChance continues to exercise. He knows, the more mobile he is, the less likely he'll end up end up falling.   

The AARP says there are lots of things that can cause you to fall such as chronic pain, inner-ear disorders which could cause dizziness, some types of medications, improper use of canes or walkers, tripping over pets, and injuries getting on or off elevators.

For more information, click to read the AARP's article "Stand Tall: How to Prevent Falls" or the CDC's article "Fall Risks for Older Adults".

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