When an elderly relative suffers a fall without injury, it’s easy to ignore or minimize the accident—but don’t. A minor fall can signal a need to evaluate risks for more serious falls that lead to long-term health and lifestyle consequences.
After a tumble, seniors should see a physician, not just to check for injuries, but also to detect possible causes for the fall. Even when they check out fine, physicians often refer patients to a physical therapist who can identify weaknesses and develop customized routines that address their deficits. Now that direct access is available in Indiana, seniors can consult a physical therapist on their own, without getting a physician referral.
“We start losing little bits of balance here and there as we age,” says Holly Massengill, PT, a physical therapist and certified athletic trainer at Indiana University Health Sports Performance. “It’s not a bad idea to start working on that sort of thing before anything happens because you’re starting at a better level.”
Receiving focused, one-on-one evaluation and care by the same therapist is one of the unique advantages of seeking treatment at IU Health Sports Performance. “I get to work with my patients for 30 to 45 minutes over an extended period of time, and in that time, I get to know them and they get to know me,” she says. “That’s where the healing can begin because we figure out what your day looks like and how we can help you.”
Every situation is unique and every patient starts from a different point, so Massengill and her colleagues build treatment plans to fit individual needs for strength, stability, flexibility and balance.
Seniors who are in good health and recovered from all injuries can practice a few simple exercises to help prevent falls.
•Heel and toe raises (to strengthen the ankles, the source of 80 percent of balance)
•Modified squats (if your knees and hips permit them)
•Practice balance by standing on one leg at a time, while standing next to something for support
•Side leg lifts, laterally raising one leg out to the side (to strengthen leg muscles)