Did you know age-related muscle degeneration is a risk factor for falls in the elderly? Sarcopenia involves loss of muscle mass, strength and function which results in affecting your balance and a person’s overall ability to perform everyday tasks.
Sarcopenia is a condition which is associated with the aging process and most commonly seen in inactive people. For example, physically inactive people can lose as much as 3% to 5% of their muscle mass each decade after the age of 30 years old.
Symptoms can also include weakness and loss of stamina, which can interfere with physical activity and therefore continues to reduce muscle mass further.
Sarcopenia often happens around the age of 75 and is a big risk factor for an increased number of falls in the elderly. It’s vital to put a pre and post falls management plan into place to both prevent and react to a fall in a way that isn’t going to cause further harm to the faller or caregiver.
Let’s begin with looking at ways we can help to prevent the fall from happening, the International Osteoporosis Foundation recommends the following on how to prevent the development of sarcopenia;
- Physical Activity
Exercise and resistance training is extremely effective for preventing sarcopenia. Resistance training affects the neuromuscular system, protein synthesis, and hormones, which, when not operating normally, work together to cause sarcopenia.
Aerobic exercise also appears to aid in the fight against sarcopenia. This form of exercise has shown to aid in increasing protein synthesis, an important function in maintaining muscle mass and strength in the aging population1.
For exercise to be effective, the proper nutrition must be in place. Adequate nutrition intake plays a major role in preventing sarcopenia. Research has shown that older adults may need more protein per kilogram than their younger counterparts to maintain proper levels that reinforce muscle mass.
There is some evidence to support that maintaining appropriate blood levels of vitamin D may also aid in muscle development for older adults that are following a resistance training program.
Thankfully, most falls do not result in a serious injury, however, the length of time a person is on the floor can lead to serious consequences.
Kate Sheehan, an Occupational Therapist from the OT Service discusses the importance of Post Falls Management and getting a fallen person off the floor as soon as it’s safe to do so.
“The first line of defense in falls prevention is to prevent the falls, however, the reality is not all falls can be prevented. The second line of defense is to prevent long lie times after the fall, which can lead to these serious health complications, which can negatively impact the quality of life for the faller.
Lying on the floor for a long time following a fall is one of the most serious consequences of the fall. The results of a long lie or delayed initial recovery include:
- Skin damage resulting in pressure sores
- Reduced confidence
- Increased anxiety
- Kidney failure (through rhabdomyolysis)
It is therefore critical to maximize recovery from the fall that resident is given the right care, at the right time, in the right place.
If there is no evidence of injury but the resident is unable to get themselves up then there is equipment available that can help without putting the faller or caregiver at further risk.”
If you’d like to read more about the Importance of Post Falls Management you can download our factsheet by clicking here
Please note, we are not clinicians and all medical questions should be directed towards your doctor.