Introducing Ohio State’s Fall Prevention Clinic

Did you know that older adults (60 years of age or older) are the most likely to fall? Whether it’s out in public or around the house, older adults need to be much more careful when moving around. Even so, this group is not the only ones at risk of falling. Younger people can also suffer from falls due to certain conditions.

For those who experience disorders or other health issues that increase their chances of falling, daily life can be a struggle to find some sense of normalcy while worried about a fall-related injury.

That’s why The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center Department of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation created the Fall Prevention Clinic to help people of all ages cope with these health conditions and discover strategies to decrease their risk of falling and fall-related injuries.

Since its inception in 2019, the clinic has helped hundreds of people return to their normal routines. With our help, you can too.

Your Fall Risk Care Plan

At the Fall Prevention Clinic, you’ll receive quality care from medical professionals who are committed to ensuring you get the individualized treatment you deserve to reduce your risk of falls.

Consultation and Exam

After you are referred by your primary care provider (PCP) to the clinic, you will have a thorough consultation and exam with both a nurse practitioner and a physical therapist. During the consultation, the nurse practitioner will discuss your medical history, previous falls (if any), review your medications and more.

After the medical review, the nurse practitioner will perform a physical exam. The exam evaluates your overall strength and gait, assesses balance and potential balance problems. You will also undergo a vision screening to ensure your sight is not a factor that could contribute to a fall. The physical therapist will perform an evaluation to assess your mobility, and conduct a series of tests to determine range of motion, strength, balance, and vestibular function, all of which can contribute to fall risk. The physical therapist can also make recommendations about how to reduce your risk for falls.

Referrals and Treatment Options

Once the nurse practitioner and physical therapist determine what you may need, you will be referred to the appropriate specialists at the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center, or even close to home. We want it to be easy for you to get the help you need, when you need it most, to prevent falls and subsequent injuries.

The medical team will work together to determine the best treatment plan for you based on your individual needs. Recovery is not one size fits all, so your treatment plans will be completely customized for you.

Why Fall Prevention Matters

The purpose of the Fall Prevention Clinic is to educate as well as rehabilitate patients about falls. It’s commonly assumed that falling is a part of aging, and that isn’t true. Aging alone doesn’t make someone a fall risk; there are many factors that can come into play.

If someone has impaired vision, a cluttered home environment, neurological disorders or the like, the risk of falling increases significantly. It’s important for patients and their caregivers to be aware of the risks that certain conditions can pose to those at risk for falling.

So, how can you determine if someone is at high risk for falling? Here are some signs to look for when it comes to yourself or your loved ones.

Fall Risk Factors

There are a number of factors that can cause a person to be a fall risk. Knowing about these will allow you to be there for those in your life who may be struggling, and help them take the necessary steps toward seeking help.

Age and Fall Risk

Age is at the top of the list when it comes to assessing someone’s risk for falling. Older adults pose a high risk, with 20-30% of fall-related injuries and trauma experienced. It’s true that as our bodies age, certain things can become more difficult, like getting around, seeing or remembering things. It doesn’t help that as we age, our environment stays the same. So elderly people are forced to adapt as best as they can.

What about Gender?

Your gender also has a lot to do with your risk of falling. Women tend to fall more often than men, but men are more likely to die as a result of a fall-related injury. Even though women fall more, the injuries they sustain are typically minor ones.

Medical Conditions and Falls

There are a number of medical conditions that could increase someone’s likelihood of falling. Some of the top medical conditions associated with falling include:

  • Orthostatic hypotension: This is a condition that causes your blood pressure to drop when standing back up after sitting or lying down for a period of time. It’s dangerous because a sudden drop in pressure can cause someone to experience extreme dizziness or even pass out.
  • Polypharmacy: Taking five or more prescription medications at the same time to treat a condition or a variety of conditions. There are a number of risks that come with taking multiple medications at once, and this could have an effect on a person’s ability to balance.
  • Eye problems: Do you have trouble with your vision? If your sight isn’t great, you might stumble more often than others. Vision issues can often be addressed by making sure that you have the proper eyewear.
  • Anxiety: If you suffer from an anxiety disorder, especially if the anxiety is tied to a previous fall, you could be at a higher risk.

These are just a few examples, but there are many other people who could be at risk. If someone has a cluttered living space or consumes alcohol excessively, it could be dangerous for them too. On top of that, falling not only takes a physical toll, but a mental one as well. If someone has fallen in the past, they might suffer from PTSD, and have to navigate their day-to-day lives in fear.

How to Reduce Fall Risk

There are a number of steps you can take to decrease your risk of falling, or the risk of someone you know.

  1. Tidying Up
    As people get older, it can be difficult to keep up with the environment around them. If you or your loved one has trouble with their balance, help keep their living space as clean and organized as possible. Make sure that walking spaces are free of clutter and easy to navigate. When there are multiple obstacles to maneuver through, it’s more likely that your loved one will trip and hurt themselves.
  2. Limiting Alcohol
    In excess, alcohol can be quite dangerous for someone who already struggles with falling. Be careful with how much you are consuming, and be mindful of the environment you are in when or if you do decide to have a drink.
  3. Limiting or Eliminating Medications
    Some prescriptions have very heavy side effects, and if your medicine could be the cause of your dizziness or falling, have a talk with your primary care physician. They might be able to decrease your dosage, or eliminate it altogether for a medication that doesn’t give you those issues.
  4. Necessary Vitamins and Minerals
    If you aren’t following a healthy or balanced diet, you might feel weak and dizzy as a result. Those who are deficient in certain areas, such as iron or vitamin D, can benefit from taking supplements to make up for what they are lacking. Consult your doctor before taking anything new.

You Can Manage Your Fall Risk Level

Falling shouldn’t be viewed as normal for those who are older or suffer from certain medical conditions. If you or a loved one is struggling, seek out a medical professional right away.

Just because you or a loved one is at risk for falling, it doesn’t mean all hope is lost. With the proper education, and by taking the necessary precautions, you’ll be able to protect yourselves and minimize your chances of suffering a life-altering injury.

Our Team

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Susan Bowman Burpee, APRN-CNP

Director, Fall Prevention Clinic

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Daniel J. Kim, MD

Physiatrist

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Heather Bane, DPT, PT

Physical Therapist

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Katie Johnston-Kapustka, DPT, PT

Physical Therapist

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