Six Things to Check After a Fall

Falls can be related to an underlying issue that can be overlooked— especially if no injury occurs. However, there are a few reasons why being proactive after a fall is crucial:


1. A new medical problem may be present that requires treatment (UTI,

dehydration, etc.)


2. A fall can lead to more falls in the future


If you, or a loved one, has experienced a fall, it is important to bring up the following with your doctor in order to screen for issues that may contribute to further falls (and injuries) in the future:


UNDERLYING ILLNESSES

Usually, physicians will screen for these if someone is experiencing symptoms of

delirium or generalized weakness. However, not all falls will present with these

signs. Some underlying illnesses that should be examined are:

  • Urinary tract infection (UTI)

  • Dehydration

  • Anemia

  • Pneumonia

  • Heart problems

  • Stroke


BLOOD PRESSURE

Blood pressure tends to change with position (sitting vs. standing). However,

certain conditions like orthostatic hypotension (a large drop in blood pressure

upon standing) can cause a fall.


Other blood tests may be important as well in order to examine sodium levels,

electrolyte levels, blood cell counts, blood sugar, etc.


MEDICATIONS

Most medications have subtle side effects, but others can cause symptoms which increase one's fall risk, such as dizziness, nausea or lightheadedness. Medications may interact with one another to produce these symptoms as well.


  • Sedatives- common examples include zolpidem (Ambien) for sleep, or lorazepam (Ativan) for anxiety

  • Antipsychotic medications

  • Blood pressure and diabetes medications

  • Anticholinergics- used for a wide variety of conditions such as allergies, overactive bladder, vertigo and depression

  • Opiate pain medications


BALANCE

Because balance tends to gradually worsen with age, it needs to be frequently assessed and treated if applicable. Your doctor should do the following:

  • Address any pain or discomfort, especially if it causes abnormalities with walking.

  • Refer to a physical therapist for a more thorough assessment, recommendations for strengthening and balance training, and help fit for an assistive device if needed.


NEED FOR SPECIALIST

Sometimes, it is helpful to refer to a specialist for more in-depth assessments. For

example, optometrists, podiatrists, and physical/occupational therapists can

assist with vision problems, lower leg/foot problems and gait, balance or home

safety training, respectively.


HOME SAFETY

Certain elements of the home should be assessed especially if the fall occurred

at home (most do!). A PT or OT can examine your need for assistive equipment

like grab bars, recommend changes in how furniture is arranged, and provide a

list of things you can do in your home to make it safer and more accessible!


It is important to note that this list is by no means extensive, however it should be a good starting point to discuss with your physician. Remember-- it is important to be your own healthcare advocate! Many of these things may get overlooked if not brought to your provider's attention.

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