Falls are experiences that happen frequently during childhood that occur in sports, at a playground, or a clumsy accident with children hopping back onto their feet to carry on their day for the most part. However, as we age, these falls can lead to more detrimental consequences such as fractures to our wrists and hips, head injuries, disabilities, or even death. The fear of falling can even limit our quality of life as we may not participate in activities we once enjoyed.
Every year millions of older adults experience at least one fall. According to the CDC (2023), one out of four adults fall each year with half not disclosing this information to their doctor. When someone has a fall, the likelihood of experiencing an additional fall doubles.
While falls can cause fear in many individuals and can have serious consequences, there are a variety of steps you can take to reduce your risk of falls!
What causes a fall?
Falls occur due to a variety of reasons such as weakness in the legs, poor balance, vision deficits, hearing problems, side effects of medications, lack of sleep, pain, lightheadedness, lack of vitamin D, and different health problems (Parkinson’s disease, dementia, osteoporosis). Blood pressure medications can increase the risk of low blood pressure when changing positions, as well as sleep, anti-depressants, and anti-anxiety medications can cause grogginess and decreased awareness to the environment that you are in. Clutter in the home, throw rugs, slippery surfaces, and poor lighting can also lead to falls in the home.
Now that we know more about what can lead to a fall, let’s discuss ways that we can take prevent them!
Time to take action!
One of the first steps in preventing a fall is to discuss with your healthcare provider about your medications, both over the counter and prescriptions. As we discussed previously, it is important to know the side effects to your medications as certain side effects can lead to grogginess, low blood pressure, balance, dizziness, and confusion. You can ask your doctor to evaluate your risk for falling and request specific steps for you to take to prevent falls.
Second, exercise to improve both your balance and strength! Consult with your healthcare provider to complete activities to help build your strength and balance such as Tai Chi, water aerobics, and walking. By completing these exercises, you are working on improving those essential skills needed to avoid falls such as strength, balance, coordination, and flexibility.
Third, it is important to attend your annual eye appointment to ensure your prescription is updated and to address or identify any concerns with your vision.
Lastly, let’s make your home a safer place to live in! It is important to remove items that you can trip over. Think of things such as shoes lying on the ground, extension cords, throw rugs, or any other clutter! For all of the pet owners out there, it is very important to be aware of where your pet is in relation to you so that you do not trip over them. Installing grab bars inside and outside of your tub and next to the toilet is another safety precaution to reduce falls. Ensuring that your home has adequate lighting by adding brighter bulbs and motion senser lights for when you are using the restroom at night can ensure you are able to see your surroundings to reduce a fall. It is important that you have a non-slip mat in your bathroom to avoid slipping on wet surfaces and to have a barrier between your feet and the floor (grip socks, shoes with rubber soles, etc). Placing items that you use frequently in easy to reach locations is another strategy!
Fear of falling & falling safely
According to the Mayo Clinic (2022), avoiding physical activities can actually increase your risk of falling. It is important to consult your healthcare provider about these concerns so that they can provide you with resources to assist you in improving your balance, strength, and flexibility such as an Occupational Therapy evaluation, Physical therapy evaluation, or an exercise program from your health care provider.
Falling Safely? Yes, there is a safe way to fall. While you can take all the preventative measures, sometimes a fall may happen. If one does, it is good to be prepared and take these steps to fall safe!
According to Fisher (2023):
- To have more control of the fall, lean forward into the fall with your knees bent and feet down
- Protect your head!! If you are falling forward, turn your face to the side. If you are falling backward, tuck your chin into your chest.
- Fall on softer places like your buttocks and thighs
- Relax your body during the fall
- Aim for a soft area if possible
- Lean your shoulder into the fall to protect your head.
Falls can be very detrimental to your quality of life,health, and lead to thousands of dollars in medical expenses due to hospitalizations. Falls can stem from side effects of medications, increased risk due to health conditions, weakness, impaired balance, and fall risks in the home environment. Consulting with your doctor, taking steps towards exercising, going to appointments to check on your vision, and taking steps to make your home safer are all essential steps to preventing a fall and maintaining your quality of life!
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2023b, May 12). Facts about falls. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/falls/facts.html
Fisher, J. (2023, December 5). Fall prevention: Strategies to help keep you from falling down. Harvard Health. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/fall-prevention-strategies-to-help-keep-you-from-falling-down
Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2022, February 3). Fall prevention: Simple tips to prevent falls. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/healthy-aging/in-depth/fall-prevention/art-20047358