King-Bruwaert House will host a Fall Prevention Seminar from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Wednesday April 19 in our Great Lounge at 6101 S. County Line Road, Burr Ridge. The program will feature a wide array of services and educational topics aimed at reducing fall risk for seniors. Typically when people think of fall risk factors, they think of the basics: environmental hazards, unsteady gait, improper use of assistive devices, the list goes on. However, one risk factor that is often overlooked is depression. Studies suggest that depression and falls are frequently associated and that symptoms of depression may even play a direct role in contributing to falls. You may be asking yourself “What does depression have to do with falls?” Many practitioners have been asking themselves the same question and as a result, the topic has been given considerable thought.
In a February 2013 American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry article titled, “The Complex Interplay of Depression and Falls in Older Adults: A Clinical Review,” authors Andrea Iaboni, D. Phil and Alastair J. Flint report that “depression and falls have a significant bi-directional relationship.” They point out that depression can negatively impact cognition in many ways including reduced attention, executive function (ie: planning and organizing, remembering details, judgement, decision-making) and processing speed. Each of these aspects plays a vital role in our ability to safely maneuver in our environment. When individuals become impaired, the risk for falls increases. Authors Iaboni, Phil, and Flint further state that “individuals with depression walk slowly with a shorter stride length, longer standing phase, and increased gait variability. These gait patterns characteristic of depression have been shown to be associated with falls.” In a June 2008 Public Library of Science article titled “Falls, Depression and Antidepressants in Later Life: A Large Primary Care Appraisal,” authors N. Kerse, L. Flicker, J. Pfaff, B. Draper, N. Lautenschlager, M. Sim, J. Snowden, and O. Almeida suggest that “older people who fall are twice as likely to be depressed compared with those who do not fall.” An initial fall may cause the older adult to fear future falls, and as a result may restrict their activities and isolate themselves in their home which increases the risk for depression. For this reason, the authors propose that “it is also possible that falls may lead to depression (reverse casuality) by reducing functional status and increasing disability. Whatever the mechanism for the relationship between depression and falls, the presence of one should trigger an inquiry for the other and an offer of appropriate remediation.” Although ongoing studies continue to evaluate the relationship between falls and depression, it is clear that the two are closely related. So what can be done in an effort to prevent one or both from affecting you or your loved one?
The first step is to recognize signs and symptoms of depression, some of which include:
- Feelings of sadness, emptiness or hopelessness.
- Anger, irritability or frustration.
- Loss of interest in favorite activities.
- Sleep disturbances.
- Lack of energy.
- Changes in appetite (eating more or less than usual).
- Trouble concentrating.
- Anxiety or restlessness.
- Slowed thinking, speaking, or slowed movements.
- Feelings of worthlessness.
- Memory difficulties or personality changes.
- Physical aches and pains.
- Wanting to stay at home instead of going out and doing things.
Once you recognize sign and symptoms, what can be done to help manage depression?
- Talk to your doctor.
- Try and be active and exercise for at least 30 minutes each day.
- Set realistic goals for yourself.
- Confide in someone you trust.
- Try not to isolate yourself.
- Give counseling a try – in most cases it is covered by Medicare and is available in the comfort of your own home!
- Try exercises focused on resistance and balance to help reduce fall risk.
Research suggests that efforts to prevent depression may be effective in reducing fall risk and efforts to prevent falls may be effective in preventing depression. Do what you can to take care of both your body and your mind! Please join us at our Fall Prevention Seminar on April 19 to learn more about the ways you can reduce fall risks for yourself or someone you love!