If I see one dizzy patient with balance problems and risk for fall, I may see five or six of them a day; that’s how common this issue is.
Falls that result in injury are one of the most common causes of premature changes in one’s lifestyle and freedoms. Falls can be without injury of any significance, but many times they result in significant injury.
These injuries can result in short- and long-term disability and can cause patients to go from living independently at home to being institutionalized.
Falls occur nationwide in the elderly population and sometimes result in facial injuries. Millions of people older than 65 years seek out and receive emergency room treatment for a fall; most of the time the injury is soft tissue and requires a short period of time and recovery. Fractures, however, are different story, some can be fixed, others cannot.
Complicating history, including taking blood thinners, can result in even further damage from a fall.
The initial cost of an emergency room visit can be in the tens of thousand dollars. The annual impact on our medical care system exceeds billions of dollars of care that is done yearly for fall injuries.
Once a fall has occurred, one’s mobility is diminished greatly, resulting in a lot of sitting and/or bed rest. Immobility creates muscle weakness.
Sometimes dependency on a cane or crutch or a walker will help and get the patient back to normal ambulation, but some people end up wheelchair/power chair dependent.
When an individual is in this situation, there is a greater chance of having infections like pneumonia or getting wounds like pressure ulcers that can have difficulty healing due to impaired circulation, as well as bacterial infection.
In some instances, patients become institutionalized whether it is in an assisted living facility (ALF) or a skilled nursing home facility (SNF). Skilled care and supervision does help, but does not completely do away with further falls and injury that can occur in that environment.
Patients innocently left unattended could try to help themselves and go to the bathroom and fall and reinjure themselves. They don’t realize how important it is to wait for help.
At home, safety and precaution are also equally important. This is particularly true for elderly patients who live at home alone and are cognitively (intellectual) non-impaired.
For these individuals, educational materials may be helpful and there are multiple sources.
Sometimes professional health care providers, trained in patient education, can provide not only information, but “hands-on” help and guidance on how to make one’s home environment safe and reduce the risk of fall and injury.
Denis W. Grillo, D.O., FOCOO, is an ear, nose and throat specialist in Crystal River. Call him at 352-795-0011 or visit CrystalCommunityENT.com.