The Henry Ford Falls Prevention Clinic

At some point in ours lives, almost all of us have lost our balance or tripped and taken a fall. In most cases, we pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and move on. However, the risk of falling and seriously injuring yourself increases greatly as you get older. For elderly patients, falling down represents a serious health issue. Here are some facts:

  • Twenty percent of people over age 65 will suffer a serious fall next year. This amounts to seven million falls per year.
  • Approximately 33 percent of these falls will occur at home.
  • Approximately 10 percent of those who fall once will fall again. Half of these patients will die within the next year.
  • Of those elderly who fall and fracture a hip, 20 percent will die within a year and another 20 percent will move from living independently to living in a nursing home.

Causes of falling

Medical conditions: poor vision and/or hearing, dizziness, confusion, Parkinson's Disease, stroke, side effects of some medications, and problems walking.

Environmental conditions: cluttered living areas, poor lighting, area rugs, long cords, clothing and shoes that do not fit properly.

Preventing falls

  1. Know your surroundings.
  2. Learn the side effects of your medications.
  3. Rise slowly from a lying position and sit up for a few minutes to give your body time to adjust.
  4. Drink plenty of fluids during the day.
  5. Wear your glasses or hearing aids and keep them clean and in good working order.
  6. Make sure that your walker or cane is the correct height.
  7. If you use a wheel chair, remember to lock the brakes when you get in and out of the chair.
  8. Keep hallways and floors clutter free.
  9. Have good lighting in hallways and walkways.
  10. Avoid use of area rugs or runners.
  11. Avoid use of long cords.
  12. Wear shoes that fit or slippers with a grip sole.
  13. Use stair rail on stairs or grab bars in bathroom.

Falls prevention evaluation - what to expect

Henry Ford's Falls Prevention Clinic employs a team approach, involving qualified providers and staff from Audiology, Otolaryngology, Neurology and Physical Therapy. The latest techniques and equipment are used in order to provide comprehensive, state-of-the-art assessments of our patients.

If you feel you are in need of or may benefit from an assessment with the Falls Prevention Clinic, it is important that you discuss this with your physician (or primary care physician) and have them refer you to our clinic. A physician's referral is necessary to be seen in the Henry Ford Falls Prevention Clinic.

The Henry Ford Falls Prevention team will evaluate the entire balance system and recommend ways to prevent falls from occurring in the future. The evaluation assesses each "system" used by the body to maintain balance, including the inner ears, eyes, muscle and joints, and the brain.

A complete evaluation takes approximately three hours and is spread out over two appointments. Testing consists of two categories:

1. Balance Function Tests (2 hours): These consist of the Video Nystagmography (VNG) and Rotational Chair tests. The VNG involves the patient lying on a table and following targets with their eyes, then having warm and cool air run softly into their ears for a brief period of time (approximately 1 minute), while the Rotary Chair rocks the patient back and forth slowly at different speeds.

2. Risk Factor Assessment (2 hours): A host of other factors are evaluated in this portion of the examination, including lower body muscle strength, sensation in the lower limbs, medication review, blood pressure check, mood assessment, and the computerized dynamic posturography test (where the patient's response rate to change is assessed).

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