Fight Fear of Falling

Tips for Avoiding Fall-related Medical Events

by Lauren Hales

Falling is the leading cause of injury among older adults, and more than one-third of people over the age of 65 fall each year. This can result in hip fracture, broken bones, and head injury. Even falls that don’t result in injury can shake confidence. Preventing falls is critical for maintaining independence and quality of life. Luckily, simple steps can reduce risk of falling.

1 | Talk to your doctor. Discuss current health conditions, medications, and any history of stumbling or falling. Your doctor can check for side effects or drug interactions that may increase your risk, as well as assess and treat medical problems such as dizziness, vitamin deficiencies, and blood pressure that may affect your ability to move safely.

2 | Keep moving! Fear of falling can lead to being more sedentary and unsteady. If you find yourself holding onto furniture or walls to steady yourself or have a history of falls, consider using a cane or a walker. Explore new, safe, and fun ways to be active. Walking, water exercise, and tai chi will help improve strength, balance, coordination, and flexibility, all of which help to reduce your fall risk. 

3 | Assess safety at home. Check for trip hazards like cords, loose rugs, and furniture, and remove items from walkways. Make sure all stairs have secure handrails. Consider installing grab bars and nonslip mats in bathrooms and showers. 

4 | Check your vision. Good vision is important for being safe while walking. Make sure you see an eye doctor once per year. Also make sure your home is well lit, especially the path from your bed to your bathroom and the stairs.

5 | See a physical therapist. If you’re not sure where to start or what type of movement is appropriate, ask your doctor for a referral to a physical therapist who can help design an exercise program for you. The therapist can also treat underlying issues such as pain or weakness that keep you from moving well or contribute to fear of falling.  

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