How to Avoid a Fall: 5 Tips to Support Quality of Life
According to the National Council on Aging, Americans aged 65 and older have a 1 in 4 chance of falling. And, every 19 minutes, an older adult will die as a result of a fall. There is good news, though. Research shows that, with a little work, the risk of falls can decrease.
Many things can lead to falls, especially as we get older. But anyone can get hurt from a fall. Poor eyesight, loss of balance, and certain medicines are a few common causes. Not having enough strength or flexibility, poor eating habits, and clutter in the walking areas at home also cause falls.
A physical therapist (PT) can help you avoid or recover from a fall. PTs are movement experts. They are trained to help you improve your strength, balance, and body movements. PTs create treatment plans based on your own needs that include exercise, hands-on care, and patient education. They improve quality of life.
Check out these tips to help limit your chances of a fall that could lead to injury, a hospital visit, or worse.
5 Tips to Prevent Falls
1. Maintain mobility and improve strength. Stay active by doing something that you enjoy. Take part in an exercise program such as tai chi, yoga, or water exercise. Doing so will help you keep your strength, flexibility, coordination, and balance. It can also reduce your fear of falling. But check with your doctor or physical therapist first to see what types of exercise programs are safe for you.
2. Get a falls screening. Ask your doctor or physical therapist about a falls screening. A trained health care provider can assess your falls risk and work with you to find ways to limit it. Let them know if you had any dizziness, lost your balance, or have trouble seeing. And make sure to tell them if you fell recently.
3. Mind your medications. If you take more than 4 medicines (prescribed or over the counter), your risk for falls and having them happen over and over is higher. Many drugs can cause you to be dizzy, lose your balance, have blurry vision, and much more. If you have any of these symptoms, review your medications with your pharmacist. Then, talk to your doctor about whether a change is right for you.
4. Eliminate hazards around your home. Look around your home with a friend or family member to identify anything that could cause you to trip or slip. Throw rugs, messy walkways, poor lighting, and even wobbly furniture or handrails could cause a fall. If you cannot fix or remove the items yourself, ask a friend or family member to help.
5. Improve home safety. Add a secure grab bar in the tub or shower and next to the toilet. A bar will give you sturdy support to hold on to when the floors are slippery from water. Check with your doctor or physical therapist about any programs near you that offer home safety assessments. Your area agency on aging may be another source of help or support.
Reviewed by Jennifer L. Vincenzo, PT, MPH, PhD, board-certified clinical specialist in geriatric physical therapy.
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United States Senate Special Committee on Aging Report. Falls Prevention: National, State, and Local Solutions to Better Support Seniors. https://drive.google.com/viewerng/viewer?url=https://www.aging.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/SCA_Falls_Report_2019.pdf. Published October 2019. Accessed October 25, 2019.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Falls reported by state. https://www.cdc.gov/homeandrecreationalsafety/falls/fallcost/falls-by-state.html. Accessed October 25, 2019.