Last year my 80 year old grandmother fell walking back from my cousins wedding reception, luckily she grabbed onto my sister and broke her fall. Nevertheless as we studied the sidewalk for several minutes only to discover its perfectly flat surface and our tremendous worry… my dear grandmother could think of nothing other than her embarrassment. We later learned from my grandfather that she has fallen several times over the last few months; she shook it off with laughing commentary in the background saying he was exaggerating. Whereas I appreciate her humor, it is no laughing matter. 2.5 million elderly adults are treated in the ER for fall injuries, with one out of five falls result in broken bones. With those statistics I continue to worry about the next time she falls and my sister isn’t there.
With that said, today being Falls Prevention Awareness day I cannot help but think of everyone in my life that is prone to falling… which I am sure you are now pondering yourself. So we should all take a minute (or longer depending on how caught up you are on house chores!) and look around our environment for fall hazards and think about prevention. I have a two year old son that contributes a lot to fall hazards with his hotwheels toys strewn all over the house, which makes my house a high risk zone no doubt! I have to ask what’s on my grandmothers floor?! We need to encourage our elderly loved ones to remove fall risk factors in their homes too; broken steps, faulty handrails, uneven pavement, clutter, throw rugs, poor lighting… grandchildren toys! However most of all we need to make sure they are still getting out of the house and do NOT let the fear of falling limit their mobility. Lower mobility is a major fall risk factor due to deteriorating body strength, which in return also influences balance. It is argued strengthening your balance is the single most important factor in avoiding falls. Senior centers across the country teach classes to elderly adults called “Matter of Balance” (I have taught a few in the past!), they are a great way to teach folks about balance strengthening through exercise and awareness of ‘fall-ty’ habits.
Working for Wellpepper and learning more each day about how it is helping patients, I cannot help but think about how mHealth technology could also help with fall prevention. There are several balance strengthening exercises that we do in our ‘Matter of Balance’ classes at the senior center that could be very easily translated onto the mHealth platform. Honestly now that I think about it the whole class could be taught this way, and might even have better results since a lot of elderly adults express interest in the class, but don’t show up because they are too embarrassed about admitting to of fallen, just like my poor grandmother.
Such thoughts of mine have been expressed officially (to say the least!) by Harvard researchers, because today it was announced on Falls Prevention Awareness Day no less, in a press release, that they are utilizing Wellpepper as an patient engagement solution to lower the costs of care and to improve patient mobility skills as well as muscle strength, endurance and power and to decrease the risk for fall-related injuries such as hip fracture. I cannot wait to see how this study plays out, because it could mean a whole world of good for our lovely elderly family members. I cannot help but visualize how cute my grandmother would be practicing her muscle strengthening exercises on an iPad and the great peace of mind my family would have.
Congratulations team Wellpepper for your involvement in making this Falls Prevention Awareness Day a big notch in your ongoing achievement index!