While comedians and circus clowns may stir audiences to laughter over such stunts as slipping on a banana peel, there’s nothing funny about falling, especially for older adults, who are at a heightened risk for serious injuries that could lead to a lengthy rehabilitation process. Not only that, but there’s a lesser known complication that often arises from a senior fall: a fear of falling again that is extreme enough to impact quality of life and health.
As the saying goes, “Once bitten, twice shy.” It’s natural – and wise – for a senior who has fallen to want to take precautions to prevent future fall risk. Yet for many, the fear of falling inhibits necessary physical activity, leading to weakness and reduced balance confidence, both of which can actually increase the risk of falling again.
Instead, it’s important for seniors to:
- Strengthen muscles. Ask the physician and/or physical therapist for appropriate exercises to engage in after a fall. Building strength is a key component to prevent future falls.
- Assess the home. Walk through the senior’s home to check for any clutter, cords, throw rugs, etc. that can cause a tripping hazard. Ensure there’s sufficient lighting, and install grab bars in the bathroom and anywhere else extra support could be helpful.
- Talk about it. Seniors may feel embarrassed for having fallen, but it’s important to discuss what happened in order to know what preventative measures can be taken to ensure it doesn’t happen again.
It’s also helpful for seniors to set goals, with the help of a medical professional, and to begin to work towards achieving them. The goals need to be reasonable and fairly easily attainable, however, to instill confidence, such as being able to walk up and down the stairs independently while holding the handrail in the next two weeks, or walking the full length of the backyard within four weeks.
Once a goal has been set, determine the steps needed to reach that goal. What types of exercises will help strengthen the muscles necessary to go up and down the stairs, or to take a longer walk? And if the goal is not achieved, think through what prevented the accomplishment, and what further steps can be taken to set and reach a new goal.
Above all, be sure to provide encouragement and support to cheer a senior loved one on towards regaining his or her self-assurance and confidence and to lessen any anxiety and fear as well as future fall risk.
For more tips on preventing falls, to arrange for a free in-home safety assessment, or to learn more about our Huntington Beach senior services and the communities we serve, call CareWorks Health Services any time at (949) 859-4700.