AGING AND LONG-TERM SUPPORT ADMINISTRATION
Falls & Prevention
September is Fall Prevention Awareness Month. For a list of fall prevention events across Washington State, visit the Department of Health's Living Well with Chronic Conditions website at http://livingwell.doh.wa.gov/events.
Falls are a concern and potential major health problem for older adults and some younger adults dealing with chronic conditions. Learn more about fall statistics.
Many people still believe that falls are a normal part of aging and can’t be prevented. The reality is there are many things you can do to help prevent yourself from falling.
There are common risk factors that are known to contribute to falls. The first steps in protecting yourself from a fall are to:
- Understand what the common risk factors are.
- Assess which of them may be an issue for you.
- Take action to counteract potential problem areas.
Many of the things that help you stay healthy and independent can be easy and even fun! The key is taking an active role in making some changes to your life! The more YOU do today– the more you CAN continue to do tomorrow!
The following information and resources are a great first step to help you get started.
- Common Risk Factors that Lead to Falls
- Fear of Falling
- Steps to Fall Prevention
- What To Do If You Do Fall
- Keeping Your Bones Healthy
Common Risk Factors that Lead to Falls
- Vision and hearing problems. Learn more about living with vision loss independently and productively from the American Foundation for the Blind.
- Certain medications used to treat hypertension, heart disease, allergy, insomnia, stomach acidity, and depression.
- Taking multiple medications.
- Lack of physical activity.
- Difficulty walking, foot problems, or issues with balance, coordination, or muscle weakness. Learn more about aging changes in the bones, muscles and joints.
- Certain diseases or conditions such as joint disease, heart disease, stroke, or Parkinsons.
- Confusion from dementia, delirium, or depression.
- Alcohol or drug abuse.
- Fall hazards in the home.
Fear of Falling
It is important to be cautious and aware of risk factors for falls. Problems can arise when caution leads to fear. Fear of falling causes many older adults to limit their activities – thereby becoming inactive and often more isolated. This is especially true if the person has fallen before.
A lack of physical activity creates an even greater risk of falling. Being inactive can lead to poor leg strength, balance difficulties, and problems walking. Even a little activity strengthens bones and muscles, improves steadiness when walking, and helps prevent fractures.
If you avoid staying active because you're afraid of falling, talk to your doctor. He or she can recommend a carefully monitored exercise program that’s right for you or refer you to a physical therapist who can help design a safe exercise program.
- Take the quiz Are You Ready to Exercise? (PDF)
- Read some positive success stories of older adults who started being active again.
Steps to Fall Prevention
- Keep physically active. Regular, daily exercise helps to improve your balance, increase your flexibility, and build your strength. Learn more about staying physically active.
- Have your vision and hearing checked regularly by a professional.
- Wear glasses and use your hearing aids (if needed).
- Use medication wisely. Have your prescriptions checked by your pharmacist or doctor periodically. Learn more about using medications wisely from AARP.
- Eat regular, healthy meals. Learn more about making healthy food choices.
- Reduce fall hazards in your home. Learn more.
- Find out if there are any gadgets or assistive devices that can help you stay independent and how to use them. Learn more.
- Wear the right type of shoes. High heels, floppy slippers and shoes with slick soles can make you slip, stumble and fall. Learn more about what shoes to wear (PDF).
- Slow down, watch where you’re going, and use handrails.
- Get up slowly after eating, lying down or resting. Low blood pressure at these times may cause dizziness.
- 12 Steps To Stair Safety at Home from the Public Health Agency of Canada.
- Fall Prevention: 6 Ways to Reduce Your Falling Risk from the Mayo Clinic.
- Check for Safety: A Home Fall Prevention Checklist for Older Adults (PDF) from the Center for Disease Control (CDC).
- Learning to Live with Vision Loss and entire website devoted to this topic from the American Foundation for the Blind.
- Information for Individuals and Families from the Fall Prevention Center of Excellence website has a large resource section on a variety of fall-related topics.
What To Do If You Do Fall
If you do fall, try to land on your buttocks to prevent more serious injuries. Try not to land on a hip.
Stay calm. Take a few deep breaths and see if you have been hurt at all. Learn more about how to safely get up from a fall or help to help someone else get up from a fall (PDF).
If you are concerned that you may not have the ability to get yourself up from a fall, talk with your doctor. Your doctors can talk with you about what types of exercise would help to improve your balance, increase your flexibility, and build your strength. Learn more about staying physically active.
Be prepared – especially if you live alone! Learn more about emergency alert systems if you fall or have any type of medical emergency.
Keeping Your Bones Healthy
To prevent porous, breakable bones as you age, you need 1,200 mg of calcium daily and 400 to 600 IU of vitamin D daily.Talk with your doctor about what is the right amount for you. Sources of calcium include:
- Leafy, dark-green vegetables such as spinach, kale, mustard greens, and turnip greens.
- Low-fat dairy products such as milk, yogurt, and cheeses.
- Canned fish such as salmon, sardine, and anchovies.
- Tofu processed with calcium-sulfate.
- Calcium and vitamin D tablets.
Other important thing that protects your bones is getting plenty of physical activity. Learn more about staying physically active.
If you are concerned about bone loss, you may want to talk with your doctor about having a bone mineral density (BMD) test.
Learn more about aging changes in the bones, muscles and joints.
Learn more about nutrition and aging.