Take Action to Decrease the Risk of Falling
Chronic conditions and medications can cause falls for a lot of older people. Some examples of chronic conditions that can cause falls include things like diabetes, high blood pressure, atrial fibrillation, Parkinson’s Disease, and arthritis.
Additionally, certain medications can cause falls! Medications may have side effects of dizziness, muscle weakness, blurry vision, or other things like that.
In this article, we will talk about how to decrease the risk of falling by starting a conversation with your primary doctor.
What Can You Do To Decrease The Risk of Falling?
The solution to dealing with chronic conditions and medications that may cause falls is to speak up to your primary care provider.
Your primary care provider (PCP) is also called your general practitioner (GP). That is the doctor, nurse practitioner (NP), or physician’s assistant (PA) who is managing your medical conditions and helping with your medications.
Keep Track of your Medications
You want to make sure that your PCP knows all of the medications you are taking, including things that are prescribed by other providers. Sometimes you can have drug interactions, if you have prescriptions from multiple different doctors. This problem can also occur if you use more than one pharmacy.
You want to make sure your primary care provider knows everything you are taking, including pills, eye drops, nasal spray, things you inject or inhale, or creams that you put on your skin. Also tell them about over the counter medications and supplements. This will help you to decrease the risk of falling.
You can keep a medication list up to date by updating it after every doctor’s appointment. After each doctor’s visit, it is important to make any changes to your medication list, so that you always have an updated list.
Make sure that your primary doctor knows all the medications that you are on in case you are having medication side effects, medication interactions or even interactions with alcohol.
Manage your Chronic Health Conditions
Speak up and ask your primary care provider, “What else do I need to do to manage my chronic health conditions?”
For example, if you have high blood pressure, you can ask your doctor, “Should I be checking my blood pressure every day with a blood pressure cuff that I can buy at the pharmacy?”
If you have diabetes, you can ask, “Should I be testing my blood sugar?”
You want to make sure that you speak up and you work with your primary care provider to manage your chronic health conditions. If you can keep your chronic health conditions stable, you will decrease your risk of falling.
It’s important to manage your chronic health conditions, the more you can work to decrease your risk of falling.
Some other questions you can ask your health care provider to help decrease the risk of falling include:
- Are your medications contributing to your falls?
- Are you having medication side effects or drug interactions?
- If you have a neurological condition such as Parkinson’s Disease, is that increasing your risk of falls?
- Are other health conditions increasing your risk of falls, such as if you’ve had a stroke, cardiac issues, mental health issues, vision problems, etc.?
- Do you need to be referred to any kind of a specialist?
Ask for Guidance to Decrease your Risk of Falling
Your primary care provider would be the one to give you referrals to things like Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy, or other types of specialists that you would benefit from seeing since it could help you decrease the risk of falling.
A Vestibular Physical Therapist may be able to help if you are dizzy.
A Home Safety inspection or an assistive device may be needed to decrease the risk of falling.
You can ask if you should be taking any nutritional supplements. Sometimes Vitamin B, Vitamin D, Calcium, Iron, or other supplements can help with certain health conditions that may cause muscle weakness or increase your fall risk. For example, if you are low in Iron or B12, that can cause anemia, which causes dizziness and that can contribute to falls. A lot of times this will be recommended based on your lab work if you get bloodwork done.
Also, ask your primary care provider what type of exercise is appropriate.
Your primary care provider may or may not be able to advise you about specific exercises that are right for you. If your doctor is not sure what exercise is best, you can request a referral to Physical Therapy.
Physical Therapists are experts in appropriate exercise prescription, given your physical and medical condition.
It is important to speak up to your primary care provider to help decrease your risk of falling.
At the annual wellness visit for people over 65 years old, the primary care provider will likely perform a Fall Risk Assessment.
The Fall Risk Assessment usually includes the following three questions. These three questions are actually required by Medicare now as part of the annual wellness visit!
The questions are:
- Have you fallen in the past year?
- Do you feel unsteady when you are standing up and walking?
- Do you worry about falling?
It is a quick assessment that your primary care provider may do annually when you go in for your wellness exam.
I would encourage you to be honest.
A lot of times people are trying to hide if they are falling or if they are afraid of falling. That is really not helpful because then you won’t get the help that you need. So be honest when your provider screens you with these quick risk assessment questions, to decrease the risk of falling.
To watch a video lecture I presented in 2016 on How to Decrease your Risk of Falling, click here.
For more recent video lectures on Preventing Falls, click here.
This blog is provided for informational purposes only. The content and any comments by Dr. Kim Bell, DPT are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. The details of any case mentioned in this post represent a typical patient that Dr. Bell might see and do not describe the circumstances of a specific individual.