Falls are one of the main causes of injury in people over age 65, which can lead to a reduced quality of life and physical function. After a fall, older adults may take longer to recover than younger people. Fear of falling is a common concern. We’ve noticed that patients sometimes avoid telling their doctor that they fell because they feel ashamed about it and worry about losing their independence.
There are many reasons people fall. Some reasons and risk factors may include health conditions such as arthritis, depression, poor balance, muscle weakness, unsteady walking, memory problems, poor vision and hearing. Also, previous falls, some medications and indoor and outdoor hazards may increase the risk of a fall.
- Talk with your doctor about your health concerns. Your doctor can help you understand why you may be falling, and what you can do to prevent further falls.
- Stay active and connected. Take a walk, join a club, or start an exercise program. Physical activity can prevent falls by increasing mood, maintaining good balance, flexibility, strength and endurance. A referral to a physical therapist if indicated can be helpful.
- Be aware of your surroundings and do a self-check. Tie shoelaces, tuck in clothes and wear clothing that is the right length. Also, use canes, walkers and other supportive devices correctly.
- Make your home fall-proof. Remove clutter, extra furniture and throw rugs. Add these safety devices to your home: nightlights in halls, bedroom and bathrooms, and handrails and bathroom grab-bars. Look at your home as if you are a visitor; what can you do to make it safer?
- Talk about your concerns and get support from the healthcare team. Social workers can help you explore feelings about falling, provide skills and tools to prevent falls and collaborate with your doctor, and nurse to come up with a safety plan that meets all of your needs.
The first step to falls prevention is to be aware of the issue, talk with your healthcare provider and then consider following these tips to help keep you safe.
For more information on falls prevention, visit us at: https://www.hss.edu/voices60.asp
Alba Rosa, senior social worker I, is a licensed clinical social worker and at Hospital for Special Surgery.