Through his work with the CMA Demand a Plan campaign, Dr. Eoghan O'Shea is committed to improving the assessment of seniors' risk of falling, promoting available resources, and enhancing medical education of falls prevention.
One third of Canadians over the age of 65 fall every year. Even if no physical injury occurs, many seniors lose confidence after a fall. Several resources exist which should be shared with both patients and Family Medicine learners to increase awareness and minimize risk of falls to patients. These include:
The Staying Independent Checklist
A simple questionnaire that an individual or their caregiver can complete.
The Stay on your Feet Screening Algorithm
To be reviewed under the supervision of a healthcare practitioner.
With patients, focus should be on learning the common causes of falls so that one may then reduce the risk of falling. Addressing polypharmacy and referring patients for appropriate vision assessment and having cataract surgery can decrease falling risk by 34%. Lack of physical activity is one of the biggest contributors to falling risk, and appropriate exercise will lower the risks of falls by 13%.
Better Strength, Better Balance! is a fall prevention exercise and education program for people aged 65+ wishing to improve their strength and balance from Ottawa Public Health, recommended for patients at risk. Patients can also participate in the Step with Confidence Program. As a recent delegate to the Ontario Medical Council, Dr. O’Shea had a motion passed to prevent cuts to Public Health, which rolls out these important programs.
A major component of increasing awareness and minimizing risks of falls is improved medical education. This must be optimized at the undergraduate level with particular attention to improving didactic training of fall prevention to medical students. In addition, improved professional development for primary care physicians and more streamlined access to falls prevention clinics and geriatrician day hospital units, in particular for those with more serious cognitive impairment issues, is necessary to see improvement.
Be sure to check out Dr. O'Shea's research poster at RIO Day in June!