FALLS INCREASE DURING WINTER; HERE’S HELP FROM PAL
More than one in three people age 65 and older fall each year, according to the National Institute on Aging. Not only does fall risk increase with age but falls are more prevalent during winter because of icy pavements.
PAL Health Technologies has a device that decreases the risk of certain types of falls. The Platinum Balance brace is a custom-made AFO (ankle-foot orthotic) prescribed for patients with clinical indications including ankle instability, drop foot, posterior tibial dysfunction and severe pronation.
“It will reduce the risk of certain types of falls,” PAL Orthotist/Prosthetist Shannon Kiser said of the Platinum Balance brace. “It’s not the cure-all for all falls. You need to consider what’s causing the falls.”
But for people with the clinical indications identified above, a Platinum Balance brace may be prescribed. The custom-made device, which is worn as a pair and fits into a patient’s shoes, is covered by most insurance companies, including Medicare and Medicaid. That’s because it’s effective for fall prevention among people with ankle instability, drop foot, posterior tibial dysfunction and severe pronation -- clinical indications associated with increased fall risk.
Designed to provide lightweight stability around the foot and the ankle, the shell is molded, capturing a true representation of the patient’s foot. Then the shell is padded with durable polyester, providing arch support and midfoot stability while allowing the forefoot and toes to be anchored for increased stability and balance. The Platinum Balance brace has an open dorsal design with Velcro straps and is fabricated to be worn with shoes.
“It’s going to help to maintain proper foot and ankle alignment through the gait cycle,” Kiser said.
All functional orthoses and AFOs can reduce the risk of falls because they improve postural stability and reduce postural sway, Kiser said. AFOs further stabilize the ankle, which helps to improve balance.
But most AFOs are prescribed only for the affected side. The Platinum Balance brace is prescribed for both feet, Kiser said.
The Platinum Balance brace should be used as part of a broader strategy to reduce fall risk, Kiser said.
Ignoring those strategies could prove costly.
One of five falls causes serious injury, such as broken bones or a head injury, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Three million older adults are treated in emergency departments for fall injuries each year and 800,000 of them are hospitalized.
Many people who fall, even if they aren’t injured, become afraid of falling. This causes them to reduce daily activities, meaning they become weaker, which increases their chances of falling, CDC said.
Many conditions contribute to falling, including foot conditions and improper footwear. People should make sure that they wear the correct size of shoe and should wear shoes with non-skid soles, Kiser said. Avoid backless shoes and high heels. Don’t walk around in socks or in shoes and slippers with smooth soles.
“You should wear shoes, even when you’re walking inside your home,” Kiser said.
Other conditions that contribute to fall risk include vitamin D deficiency, difficulty with walking and balance, use of medicines such as tranquilizers and sedatives and vision problems. Hazards – such as throw rugs, clutter, broken or uneven pavement and ice – also increase the chances of falling.
CDC recommends that people reduce their risk of falling by talking with their doctor and asking what they can do to reduce their fall risk; reviewing their medicine to see if any may make them dizzy or sleepy; and asking about vitamin D supplements.
Strength training and balance exercises strengthen legs and improve balance. Tai Chi, for example, improves both strength and balance.
“Therapy/exercise is a big component of reducing falls and helping to maintain mobility,” Kiser said.
People should have their vision and hearing tested at least once a year, National Institute on Aging (NIA) said. Update eyeglasses if needed and, if you have a hearing aid, make sure it fits well and wear it.
Make your home safer by removing things – such as throw rugs and clutter – that can cause you to trip; use non-slip mats on shower floors; add grab bars inside and outside the shower and next to the toilet; make sure your home has ample light; and store items you need within reach.
Get enough sleep and limit alcohol because sleepiness and alcohol can hinder your balance and reflexes, NIA said. Stand up slowly because getting up too quickly can cause your blood pressure to drop and make you feel wobbly.
If you need assistance, use a cane or walker.
Finally, don’t walk on icy surfaces. Ask someone to spread sand or salt on icy areas by your front and back doors.
For more information, visit xtremity3d.com. To place an order, call PAL customer service at 800-223-2957.
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