Five More Steps to Take to Decrease Your Risk of Falling

Falls are a major threat to the health and independence of older adults.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports 36 million older adults fall each year, with falls often leading to serious injuries and death.

Falls Prevention Awareness Week is observed each September, making now a good time to learn more about the steps you can take to help the seniors in your life avoid falls — and to avoid falls yourself.

Last year, our Trauma Program Injury Prevention Team provided you with Nine Steps to Take to Avoid Falls.

This year, we’ve added five more steps you can take to help decrease your risk of falling:

Make slow position changes

Changing position quickly can cause a drop in blood pressure, resulting in a dizzy or lightheaded sensation.

When changing your position, take your time and ensure you are stable before continuing.

Stay hydrated

Signs of dehydration include dry mouth, fatigue, dizziness, muscle cramps, confusion, dark-colored urine, extreme thirst, less frequent urination, and constipation.

To ensure you’re staying properly hydrated, consider having a full drink with every meal and all medications.

Additionally, try to stay in a cool environment, keep fluids accessible, and limit caffeine intake.

Look up and be aware of your surroundings

If your balance is impaired, it’s common to look down at your feet while walking.

However, doing so increases your risk of tripping or stumbling.

It’s important to look up and scan your surroundings for obstacles or hazards that could get in your way.

Use assistive devices as recommended

Assistive devices are a great way to maintain independence and allow you to do the things you love with more confidence and decreased fall risk.

Common assistive devices include straight canes, rolling walkers, and rollators.

Have vision and hearing tested regularly

Poor vision and hearing can limit your awareness of your surroundings, including potential hazards.

It’s important to wear glasses and hearing aids as prescribed, and to have your vision and hearing tested regularly to ensure that your prescription is current.


Risk factors for falling

Along with the tips above, it’s important to be aware of the factors that can increase your risk of falling.

These risk factors include:

  • Impaired vision
  • Impaired sensation
  • Decreased muscular strength, flexibility and endurance
  • Decreased confidence
  • Medication side effects
  • Improper footwear
  • Dehydration
  • Home hazards


Consequences of falling

Possible outcomes of a fall include broken bones, head injury, and death – according to the CDC, an older adult dies every 20 minutes in the United States as a result of falling.

Falls can also take an emotional toll as well, leading to increased fear of falling and decreased physical activity, which can impact your overall health.

Physical therapy for decreased fall risk

For some people, physical therapy can be a great tool for improving balance and decreasing fall risk.

A licensed physical therapist will use standardized tests to assess your impairments and risk of falling.

After the assessment, they will make recommendations about home set-up, safe exercises, and appropriate assistive equipment to minimize your fall risk.

If you have had a fall or are concerned about falling, speak with your doctor about a referral to physical therapy to be evaluated.

 

This post was written by Taylor Merola, PT, DPT and Elizabeth Tessitore PT, DPT, who are physical therapists at South Shore Health

Learn more about Physical Therapy at South Shore Health.