Falls Prevention Awareness Month: Learn How to Prevent and Handle Falls

Dr. Lori Clemmons

More than 1 in 3 people over the age of 65 experience falls each year. As people get older, what once may have been a simple stumble can be a life-changing tumble, as bones are more susceptible to breaking and the result could be a permanent disability. Falls can occur for many reasons, from safety hazards to slow reflexes, but being aware of the risk factors and following preventive practices are helpful ways to avoid them.

Don’t Forget to Exercise
Healthy aging practices are shown to prevent falls and fall-related issues. Exercising keeps muscles, joints, tendons, and ligaments strong while maintaining your balance and coordination. It’s especially important to keep up with fitness as you age because bones become weaker over time, and physical activity strengthens your bone density.

Communicate With Your Doctor
Communicating with your doctor will give insight into the potential causes of a fall. Regular visits to the doctor could detect health-related issues that affect your ability to balance. Diabetes, heart disease, low blood pressure, muscle weakness, and foot pain are all risk factors for falls. Even more significantly, alerting your doctor of a past fall, even if you didn’t feel hurt, can bring awareness to an issue – such as a vision issue that requires correcting or a bad reaction to a medication.

If you're prescribed medications, ask your doctor about potential side effects that could make you feel tired or dizzy. Medications like anti-anxiety drugs or antihistamines suppress the central nervous system, reducing alertness and reaction time. In fact, the more medications you take, the more likely you are to experience a fall. Learning about side effects is a great way to be mindful and more aware of when you may be drowsy and, therefore, more vulnerable to falling.

How to Handle a Fall
Falling can be scary and painful, but staying calm will get you up quicker. If you experience a fall, make sure to take a deep breath and collect yourself so your blood pressure has time to decrease before you attempt to stand up. Assessing whether you have any pain or discomfort will also help in planning how to get up so you don’t worsen a potential injury.

If you do have a fall, the best way to get up is, if you can, roll onto your hands and knees and crawl to a stable surface like a bed or chair capable of supporting your weight. Slowly get yourself in a kneeling position and use the stable surface to get one leg up at a time. Make sure to sit down once you’re off the ground, and take time to rest. If you are injured, always call 911 and visit your doctor.

And if possible, carry a phone or alert system so you can get help sooner if you experience a fall. If you can’t get up on your own, call 911 or someone nearby.

Fall is coming – but let’s make sure that’s just part of the calendar, not your health.