Almost 800,000 people in the United States have strokes each year. This can result in serious balance issues, difficulty using some limbs, or even paralysis. According to statistics from the National Stroke Association, 40 percent of this population will suffer a serious fall within a year of the stroke. This makes seniors who have a history of strokes one of the highest risk groups for falls.
Lasting Effects of a Stroke
Strokes damage the way muscles work, leading to dizziness and balance issues, gait deficits, and a number of other issues that could prevent you from being steady on your feet. At the same time, stroke survivors are at an increased risk for hip fractures. So, not only are you more likely to fall after a stroke, but you are also more likely to suffer serious injuries that can limit future mobility and independence.
Because your body may no longer function normally after a stroke, you may feel extremely uneasy about being on your feet. This fear of falling rarely leads to physical harm, but it can hurt you in a number of emotional and psychological ways. If you have a fear of falling, you are less likely to be physically active — and less likely to maintain a social life outside of your home. Eventually, these fears could worsen until they lead to a loss of independence.
Preventing Falls After a Stroke
The first step in fall prevention is to talk with a health care professional about physical therapy. If your doctor doesn’t feel it’s necessary, ask if he or she can recommend an exercise program that could help you improve your balance. Exercise programs that target balance and gait have shown promise in reducing the number of falls in stroke patients, according to a study published in the Journal of Rehabilitation Research and Development. The study also shows that use of assistive devices can help keep you steady on your feet after a stroke. Discuss with your doctor if a cane, walker, or scooter could help reduce your fall risk.
Being Prepared for a Fall
Accidents and falls occur in about one out of every three seniors each year, and those who have had strokes are at an even higher risk. Because falls do happen, it’s always best to be prepared. One of the best ways to ensure help is never more than a push of a button away is to use a medical alert device.
These systems include a speakerphone-like base unit and a pendant. With the push of a button, the call center is contacted, and help can be dispatched. Some pendants even include fall detection technology and can place a call automatically after a fall, if a fall is detected.
If you’re frequently on the go, you may want to consider a GPS-enabled device, such as the Philips Lifeline GoSafe system. These systems work both in and outside your home. When you’re at home, they work with a base unit and your phone line. When you’re away, they can make emergency calls, thanks to a cellular connection in the pendant.
Having a stroke can increase your fall risk, but that doesn’t mean you should live in fear. By taking these steps to ensure your risk is minimized and you are prepared in the event of a fall, you can continue to live a full and independent life.
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