According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one out of four older Americans fall each year. Falling once doubles the chances of falling again. Every 19 minutes, an older adult will die as a result of a fall. A fall can result in unwanted outcomes, including injury, loss of independence, and decreased ability to do the things that are most important to you.
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. Poor eyesight, loss of balance, and certain medicines are a few common causes. Not having enough strength or flexibility, poor footwear, and clutter in the walking areas at home also cause falls.
Doing regular physical activities that include endurance, muscle strengthening, and balance activities can reduce your risk of fall-related injuries. According to the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, physical activity, including exercise, reduces falls by 13% to 40% in community‐dwelling older adults.
A physical therapist can help you assess your risk factors and develop a plan to address them to help you avoid a fall and remain independent. They also can help you recover from a fall. Physical therapists are movement experts who improve quality of life through hands-on care, patient education, and prescribed movement.
Check out these five tips to help limit your chances of a fall that could lead to injury, a hospital visit, or worse.
1. Maintain mobility and improve strength.
Stay active by doing physical activities that you enjoy. Take part in tai chi, yoga, or walking. Doing so will help you keep your strength, flexibility, coordination, and balance. It also can reduce your fear of falling. But check with your doctor or physical therapist first to see what types of activities are safe for you. Physical therapy (with exercise) focused on balance, stability, and the ability to perform common tasks is recommended and can prevent falls, according to the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.
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 decrease your risk of falling. Let them know if you have any dizziness, loss of balance, or trouble seeing. Make sure to tell them if you fell in the last year.
3. Mind your medications.
If you take more than four medicines (prescribed or over the counter), your risk for falling 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, clutter, 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 or your feet are slippery. 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.
If you have experienced a fall, or have a fear of falling, a physical therapist can help.
Visit our Health Center on Falls for more information.
Physical therapists are movement experts. They improve quality of life through hands-on care, patient education, and prescribed movement. You can contact a physical therapist directly for an evaluation. To find a physical therapist in your area, visit Find a PT.