HealthONE - March 03, 2021
by Brandi Williams, RN TCRN

Do You Have a Fear of Falling?

Did you know that falls are not a normal part of aging and that they can be prevented?  For older adults, the risk of falling is very real. There are many reasons why older adults fall, including chronic conditions, balance problems, poor vision, cognitive impairment, side effects from medications, improper footwear, and previous falls. With so many factors threatening to cause older adults to fall, the fear of falling is no laughing matter.

In the U.S., unintentional falls are the third leading cause of injury-related death for all age groups, and the number one cause of injury-related deaths for those 65 years and older. For all ages in Colorado, falls are the leading cause of injury-related hospitalization and the third leading cause of injury-related death.

It is predicted that 1 in 4 adults now 65 will live to be 90+

Fall-related injuries are costly in monetary terms, and can steal the independence of older adults and their families. Many people make financial plans for retirement, but many of us do not make plans for the other changes that come with age. Fortunately, there are things you can do to keep your feet safely on the ground by making a plan to stay independent.

Get a physical checkup each year and discuss with your physician any weaknesses or balance issues that you may be experiencing.

Review your medications with your physician or your pharmacist. Certain medications can have side effects that can alter your ability to walk, or move around safely.

Get your vision checked each year to address any vision issues. Eye problems can increase your risk of falling.

Make your home safer by removing tripping hazards, adding grab bars to the bathroom, and installing night lights. Put often-used items within easy reach and for items not within reach use a step stool, never stand on a chair.

Dress appropriately for the colder weather.  When the temperature drops, older adults run a higher risk of health problems including hypothermia, frostbite, and falls on ice and snow. Wearing boots with non-skid soles or using snow and ice traction cleats will prevent you from slipping.

Follow a regular activity program to increase your strength and balance. Strength and balance activities, such as Tai Chi, has shown to reduce your risk of falling. Other activities, like walking, is great for exercise but doesn’t necessarily help prevent falls.

Tai Chi involves soft, slow movements in opposite directions (yin and yang) to increase strength and improve flexibility and concentration. It also improves balance and gait. Tai Chi is offered at many recreation centers usually for a small fee, but with the restrictions put into place for COVID-19, attending a Tai Chi class may be challenging.  Here are some videos that you can do safely from your home. As with any new exercise program please consult your physician before beginning.

Seated Tai Chi for Seniors

Sunrise Beginner Tai Chi

References and Resources:

CDC-Adult Mobility Tools

NCOA Fall Prevention Facts

CDC Fact Sheet on Older Adult Falls

NCOA Tai Chi for Falls Prevention