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Risk for Falls Among Older Adults: Tips for MSN Students

Helping prevent and treat falls is an important part of being an adult/gerontology nurse practitioner.

Each year, one in four people over the age of 65 will fall.1 Because falls often result in injury, they’re a serious problem for older adults—and one of the issues you will address if you become an adult/gerontology nurse practitioner.

Why Are Older Adults 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 experience 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.

Risk for Falls Among the Elderly: Tips for MSN Students

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.1

Older adults who fracture a hip are at a significantly higher risk of dying within the next year.2 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.3 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; even a daily walk can help. Tai chi, in particular—with its slower, low-impact movements—can improve balance, strength, and flexibility in older adults.4
  • 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 didactic faculty that’s 100% doctorally prepared. And the university is partnered with many 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 produces more MSN graduates than any other university in the U.S.5 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.

1Source: http://www.cdc.gov/homeandrecreationalsafety/falls/adultfalls.html
2Source: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3597289
3Source: www.nsc.org/community-safety/safety-topics/older-adult-falls
4Source: www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/the-health-benefits-of-tai-chi
5Source: National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) IPEDS database. Based on the most recent year of completions survey data available, using CIP code family 51.38 “Registered Nursing, Nursing Administration, Nursing Research, and Clinical Nursing” for Master’s degrees (Award level 7). Available at https://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/use-the-data. (Retrieved January 2021; may consist of or include provisional release data.)

Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission, www.hlcommission.org.

The baccalaureate degree program in nursing (BSN), master’s degree program in nursing (MSN), post-graduate APRN certificate program, and Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program at Walden University are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (www.ccneaccreditation.org).

Note on licensure: Walden’s MSN nurse practitioner specializations are designed to academically prepare graduates with an active registered nurse (RN) license to practice in the U.S. as nurse practitioners. However, each state has its own academic preparation and authority to practice requirements and issues its own license for an RN to be permitted to practice as a nurse practitioner in that state. Learn more about professional licensure.

No graduate program can guarantee that graduates will obtain licensure to practice as a nurse practitioner. We encourage students to consult the appropriate board of nursing or regulatory authority in the states or jurisdictions in which they reside or intend to seek licensure to determine specific requirements. Walden Enrollment Specialists can provide information relating to licensure; however, it remains the individual’s responsibility to understand, evaluate, and comply with all requirements relating to licensure for the state in which they intend to practice, as requirements vary widely.

Note on certification: Walden’s MSN program is designed to academically prepare graduates to apply for national certification. Walden makes no representations or guarantees that completion of Walden coursework or programs will permit an individual to achieve national certification. We encourage students to consult an appropriate certifying body for the specific certification eligibility requirements. Students should also consult their state board of nursing or other state agency to determine what certifications are required or accepted in that state. It is an individual’s responsibility to understand, evaluate, and comply with all requirements relating to national certification, as requirements vary widely. For more information about nurse practitioner certification exams, students should visit the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Board at www.aanpcert.org, the American Nurses Credentialing Center at www.nursingworld.org/ancc, or other nurse practitioner certification websites.

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