Tips for Preventing Falls
Tips for Preventing Falls
When some think of “fall” their minds instantly jump to cool weather, colorful leaves, the start of the holiday season and all things pumpkin spice. However, for many, particularly those over the age of 65, “fall” could mean a ticket to the emergency room.
According to the National Council on Aging, falling is the lead cause of both fatal and nonfatal injuries for those 65 and older. Over 20,000 older adults die from falls annually, and 90 percent of all hip fractures among older adults result from falls. Each year, $28.2 billion is spent on treating injuries from falls.
While falling is a serious and legitimate concern, no one has to live in fear. There are many things you can do to reduce your risk of falling and injury.
Understand Your Risk
According to the American Physical Therapy Association, those who meet any of the following conditions are especially at risk of falling:
- 80 years old or older
- Leg muscle weakness
- Difficulty with balance or walking
- Vision problems such as cataracts, macular degeneration or a need to wear bifocals
- Medical conditions that limit your ability to get around such as Parkinson’s disease, stroke or diabetes
- Conditions that cause confusion such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease
- Taking more than four medications at the same time or psychoactive medications such as sedatives or antidepressants
- Home hazards such as throw rugs or a pet that would walk under your feet
- Low blood pressure
- A history of previous falls
One way to determine if you are at high risk of falling is by using the Timed Up and Go (TUG) Test. Begin the test by sitting in a chair and identifying a point 10 feet away on the floor. Wearing regular footwear and using a walking aid if necessary, have someone else time the number of seconds it takes for you to stand up from your chair, walk to the spot, and walk back to your chair to sit down. If it takes 12 seconds or more to complete this task, you have a high risk of falling.
Myths and Facts about Falling
MYTH: Falling happens to other people, not to me.
FACT: The truth is that 1 in 3 older adults – about 12 million people – fall every year.
MYTH: Falling is something normal that happens as you get older.
FACT: Falling is NOT a normal part of aging, and can be avoided through strength and balance exercises, managing your medications and improving home safety.
MYTH: If I limit my activity, I won’t fall.
FACT: Performing physical activity will actually help prevent falls and increase independence by increasing strength, range of motion and balance.
MYTH: As long as I stay home, I can avoid falling.
FACT: Over half of falls take place in the home. It is important to inspect your home, remove clutter and invest in the appropriate equipment to prevent falls.
MYTH: Muscle strength and flexibility cannot be regained.
FACT: While muscle is lost as we age, exercise can still help restore strength and flexibility.
MYTH: Taking medication does not increase risk of falling.
FACT: Different medications can result in increased dizziness or sleepiness, resulting in falls. Take precautions with new medications and report any symptoms to your doctor.
MYTH: I don’t need to get my vision checked every year.
FACT: Vision is a key risk factor for falls and should be checked at least once a year. Those with vision problems are twice as likely to fall as those without visual impairment.
MYTH: Using a walker or cane will make me more dependent.
FACT: Walking aids are assistive devices designed to maintain and improve mobility, and can help increase quality of life.
MYTH: I will lose my independence if I talk to my family members or healthcare provider about my concern of falling.
FACT: Your healthcare professional and family can support your independence by assisting with changes in exercise, medication or home modifications. It’s important to discuss your concerns with your loved ones and doctor.
The only things that should be falling this season are the leaves on the trees. Staying knowledgeable is the first step towards preventing falls. We urge you to not buy into the myths about falling, and encourage you to get serious about making the proper modifications in your lifestyle necessary to reduce your risk of falling.