Each year, one in four people over the age of 65 will fall.* Because falls often result in injury, they’re a serious problem for the elderly—and one of the issues you will address if you become an adult/gerontology nurse practitioner.
Why Are the Elderly at an Increased Risk for Falling?
As we age, our bodies lose strength and balance. Many older adults suffer from lower-body weakness and/or foot pain, which can make falls more likely. Older adults are also more likely to suffer from vision problems, which can make obstacles and changes in incline difficult to see. Additionally, many older adults are vitamin D deficient and/or take multiple medications, both of which can cause fatigue and balance issues.
What Types of Injuries Can Happen in Falls?
Every year, falls send 2.8 million older Americans to emergency rooms, with over 800,000 being hospitalized, most often for head trauma or hip fractures. Falls are the leading cause of traumatic brain injury and 95% of all hip fractures.*
Older adults who fracture a hip are at a significantly higher risk of dying within the next year.† But even a less severe fall can have serious consequences. Head injuries can lead to brain bleeding, which can increase the risk of stroke. Broken bones can limit activity, leading to depression and a more sedentary lifestyle. Even the fear of falling again can cause older adults to be less active, which can lead to weakness and, ultimately, a greater chance of suffering another fall.
How Can You Help Older Adults Prevent Falls?
As an adult/gerontology nurse practitioner—whether you specialize in acute care or primary care—you’ll almost surely see patients who have fallen or are worried about falling.
Fortunately, there are ways to help reduce their risk. These include:
- Reviewing medications. Since some medications and combinations of medications can cause fatigue and/or dizziness, you should review what older adults are taking to see if you can make any changes to decrease those side effects.
- Encouraging eye exams. Poor eyesight can often be improved with proper eye care. You can refer older adults to an ophthalmologist for a full exam. An ophthalmologist’s office can fit your patients with proper eyewear and diagnose and treat other conditions (such as cataracts) that may be impairing vision.
- Encouraging a home safety assessment. Falls most often occur in the home.‡ Because of this, it’s smart for your patients (and their families) to conduct a thorough review of their home and remove/mitigate anything that can increase the risk of falling. In particular, they should remove ground clutter, secure or remove loose carpets, use non-skid mats in baths and showers, install railings on stairs, and remove items from high shelves so there’s no need for step stools.
- Encouraging physical activity. Staying active can help older adults stay strong. That doesn’t mean going running or hitting the bench press every day; a daily walk can help. Tai chi, in particular—with its slower, low-impact movements—can improve balance, strength, and flexibility in older adults.§
- Suggesting a cane or walker. For older adults who constantly struggle with balance, a cane or walker can be a lifesaver. Point out the advantages of walking assistance and encourage your patients to recognize the ways a cane or walker can allow them to live a longer, fuller life.
How Can You Become an Adult/Gerontology Nurse Practitioner?
To become an adult/gerontology acute care nurse practitioner or an adult/gerontology primary care nurse practitioner, you must first earn a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN degree). That means you’ll need to go to nursing school and enroll in a master’s in nursing program that offers an adult/gerontology nurse practitioner specialization.
Where can you find a high-quality adult/gerontology nurse practitioner program? Walden University. Walden’s MSN program, with adult/gerontology nurse practitioner specializations online, allows you to complete much of the coursework for your master’s degree in nursing from home. Plus, when you choose Walden’s online MSN program, you’ll enjoy a flexible, convenient online learning platform that allows you to continue working full time while earning your degree.
In addition to the many advantages of online learning, Walden’s MSN programs also have a teaching faculty that’s 100% doctorally prepared. And the university is partnered with over 300 leading healthcare employers and associations, which can help you launch or further your nursing career. Walden even offers an RN to MSN online program option. With so much to offer, it’s no surprise Walden is the leading provider of advanced nursing degrees in the U.S., producing more MSN graduates than any other university.** It’s a great place to earn your master of science in nursing and position yourself to become an adult/gerontology NP.
Walden University is an accredited institution offering a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program with an Adult/Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner specialization and a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program with an Adult Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner specialization online. Expand your career options and earn your degree using a convenient, flexible learning platform that fits your busy life.
*Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Important Facts About Falls,” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, on the internet at www.cdc.gov/homeandrecreationalsafety/falls/adultfalls.html.
†S. Schnell, et. al., “The 1-Year Mortality of Patients Treated in a Hip Fracture Program for Elders,” Geriatric Orthopaedic Surgery & Rehabilitation, on the internet at www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3597289.
‡National Safety Council, “Slip, Trip, and Fall Prevention Will Keep Older Adults Safe and Independent,” on the internet at www.nsc.org/learn/safety-knowledge/Pages/safety-at-home-falls.aspx.
§Harvard Women’s Health Watch, “The Health Benefits of Tai Chi,” Harvard Health Publishing, on the internet at www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/the-health-benefits-of-tai-chi.
**Source: National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) IPEDS database. Retrieved July 2017, using CIP codes 51.3801 (Registered Nursing/Registered Nurse); 51.3808 (Nursing Science); 51.3818 (Nursing Practice). Includes 2016 preliminary data
Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission, www.hlcommission.org.
Walden University’s DNP, MSN, and BSN programs are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), 655 K St. NW, Suite 750, Washington, D.C. 20001, 1-202-887-6791. CCNE is a national accrediting agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and ensures the quality and integrity of baccalaureate and graduate education programs. For students, accreditation signifies program innovation and continuous self-assessment.
Note on Certification and Licensure, Authorization, Endorsement, or Other State Credential Necessary to Practice as a Nurse Practitioner
The MSN nurse practitioner specializations are designed to prepare graduates to qualify to sit for national nurse practitioner certification exams and to prepare graduates who possess an active registered nurse (RN) license to practice as nurse practitioners. However, each state Board of Nursing has its own academic and certification requirements and issues its own credential for an RN to be permitted to practice as a nurse practitioner in that state. Walden enrollment advisors can provide information relating to national certification exams and guidance relating to the state-by-state requirements for practice as a nurse practitioner; however, it remains the individual’s responsibility to understand, evaluate, and comply with all requirements relating to national certification exams for the state in which he or she intends to practice as requirements vary widely. Walden makes no representations or guarantee that completion of Walden coursework or programs will permit an individual to obtain national certification or to obtain state licensure, authorization, endorsement, or other state credential.