Reduce your fear of falling
As we age, the fear of falling becomes top of mind. Often this fear keeps older adults from everyday activities such as visiting with friends, shopping or going for a walk.
While the fear is real, it can lead to a reduction in activity that affects your health. The good news is you can ease this fear and remain both physically and socially active by practicing a few fall prevention guidelines.
First, understand the facts related to seniors falling
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), millions of people ages 65 and older fall each year, making falls the leading cause of injury in this age group. More than one out of four older people falls each year, but less than half tell their doctor. And falling once doubles your chances of falling again.
One of the most serious fall injuries is a broken hip. Each year over 300,000 older people—those 65 and older—are hospitalized for hip fractures. It is difficult to recover from a hip fracture, and after such an injury, many people are not able to live on their own.
Know the risk factors for falling
Most falls are caused by a combination of risk factors, and the more risk factors a person has, the greater their chances of falling. According to the CDC, these risk factors include:
- Lower body weakness
- Vitamin D deficiency (that is, not enough vitamin D in your system)
- Difficulties with walking and balance
- Use of medicines, such as tranquilizers, sedatives or antidepressants. Even some over-the-counter medicines can affect balance and how steady you are on your feet.
- Vision problems
- Foot pain or poor footwear
- Home hazards or dangers
- Not getting enough sleep
Six things seniors can do to prevent falls
Falls are not a normal part of aging. You can avoid the risk of a fall by taking steps to stay safe and independent longer. Many of the risk factors can be changed or modified to help prevent falls. Learn what you can do to reduce your chances of falling:
1. Take home safety precautions.
- Remove things you can trip over that are on the floor or steps.
- Secure small throw rugs in place with double-sided taper non-slip backing .
- Keep frequently used items in cabinets you can reach without using a step stool.
- Install grab bars in the bathroom, by the toilet and in the tub.
- Place a non-slip mat or anti-slip strips on the shower floor and in the bathtub.
- Use bright bulbs in lamps, consider curtains and drapes that reduce glare, and make sure staircases are well lit.
- Install handrails.
- Wear comfortable shoes with good support, whether you’re in your home or outside.
- Talk with your doctor.
Ask your doctor to evaluate your risk for falling and discuss specific things you can do.
Ask your doctor to review your prescription and over-the-counter medicines to see if any might make you dizzy or sleepy.
Ask your doctor whether taking vitamin D supplements would be right for you.
- Do strength and balance exercises.
Ask your doctor to recommend helpful exercises that make your legs stronger and improve your balance.
- Have your eyes examined.
Have your eyes checked by an eye doctor at least once a year, and update your eyeglasses if needed. If you have bifocal or progressive lenses, you may want to get a pair of glasses with only your distance prescription for outdoor activities, such as walking. Consider assistive devices.
Canes, walkers, wheelchairs and scooters can increase stability and prevent unexpected falls from occurring.
- Use an in-home care service.
A home care agency that specializes in services for seniors can provide a professional caregiver that will come to your home and help with daily activities. Having a helping hand is sometimes all that's needed to prevent a serious fall.
- Choose sensible shoes.
The Mayo Clinic recommends you consider changing your footwear as part of your fall-prevention plan. High heels, floppy slippers and shoes with slick soles can make you slip, stumble and fall. So can walking in your stocking feet. Instead, wear properly fitting, sturdy shoes with nonskid soles. Sensible shoes may also reduce joint pain.