Education and early fall intervention is key to preventing falls amongst the over-65 community, according to Gold Coast Private’s head of rehabilitation, who says they are still admitting an alarming number of patients with fall-related injuries.
Look For The Signs
Dr Michael Johnson is urging local GPs to look out for early signs of frailty in their patients – a warning sign for falls – and to refer them to rehabilitation beforea fall occurs.
“GPs need to have a look at their patients when they come in with respect to a risk of falls as well as frailty, talk to them and establish if there are any issues,” he said.
“From there, they should send a referral through to us so that we can intervene and reduce their fall risk.
“With falls of this age group, prevention is crucial – otherwise, they end up having a fall and while the injuries could be minor like bruising and abrasions, they can also be more serious, like a hip fracture.
“At this age, the complications of surgery can be significant and often lead to more issues, so it’s best to be avoided altogether.”
Fall Intervention: Anxiety Affecting Fall Rates
Dr Johnson said anxiety and loss of confidence were also major contributors to falls in the elderly.
“It’s a vicious cycle,” he said.
“We see older patients who become increasingly anxious and concerned about the possibility of a fall, so they pull back on their level of activity to ‘avoid’ falling.
“However, by reducing their activity, they end up becoming an even bigger falls risk, and that’s usually when an accident happens.
“It becomes a downward spiral so it’s vital that we’re able to intervene early to stop these issues in their tracks.”
Dr Johnson said Gold Coast Private’s 52-bed rehabilitation unit was pro-active in their prevention efforts. He said the unit ran a weekly education program with a team of doctors and allied health professionals for inpatients. There are also people in the community who take part in the hospital’s ‘day therapy’ groups.
“The program covers a range of topics and is run by a multi disciplinary team, including physiotherapists, occupational therapists, nutritionists and speech pathologists – just to name a few,” he said.
Dr Johnson said generally speaking, the number of elderly people in the community who suffer from frailty is grossly underestimated.
“I would really encourage GPs to look at issues of frailty in their patients and if they have concerns, talk to us” he said.
“It is much easier to treat early, than further down the track.”
Fall Intervention: Case study
Pat Miller always thought rehabilitation came after a serious injury. At least she did until she was seriously injured.
“You tend to think of going to rehab after a fall but I now realise it would have benefitted me before my accident,” the 82-year-old said.
“Rehabilitation at my age is equally about strengthening your body and educating yourself before a fall. I’ve learned so much at Gold Coast Private during the past couple of months and only wish I had done this sooner.”
Pat, who lives with husband Max at Paradise Point, has been working with Dr Michael Johnson and his Gold Coast Private rehabilitation services team after suffering a serious fall at home. She has been visiting Gold Coast Private two days a week where she is learning what she wished she knew earlier.
“My confidence has improved greatly,” she said.
“I’ve learned so much I had never thought of – even simple things like how to turn around safely.
“I now know rehabilitation isn’t just about overcoming injuries. It’s about helping you with day-to-day living.”
Gold Coast Private Hospital
For more information contact:
Gold Coast Private Hospital, Rehabilitation Care Centre, Level 2, 14 Hill Street, Southport QLD 4215, P: 07 5530 0125.
Day Therapy Program
Fast Facts about the Gold Coast Private day therapy program:
- Tailored exercise program focused on strength, balance and reconditioning
- Covered under private health insurance with hospital cover
- Twice weekly for six weeks
- Participants reviewed by rehab specialist
- Program run by Occupational Therapist and Physiotherapist
- Access to other allied health including Speech Therapist, Social Worker and Dietitian
For more information call Day Therapy Program Coordinator, Shannon McColl – 07 5530 0125.
If you injure yourself, always seek medical help immediately. Read our article about why it is so important to seek emergency care when you need it.
Editor for Silver Magazine Gold Coast