More than 25% of people over 65 experience a fall each year, according to the CDC. Only half tell their doctors. 20% of falls lead to a serious injury of some kind. And deaths from falls are on the rise.
Even if you aren’t hurt in a fall, there can be consequences. Sometimes older people worry about falling enough to limit their activity, which causes weakness — and, ironically, can lead to a fall.
There are steps you can take to avoid falls. Staying strong is one of the most important measures to take. Having a strong core and good balance keeps you from falling and makes it more likely that you can catch yourself if you do fall. Strong bones won’t keep you from falling, but they will limit the chance of broken bones from a fall. Talk with your doctor about safe ways to get regular exercise and build strength.
Have your vision checked and keep lights bright enough. A night light between your bed and your bathroom is a smart move.
Check your home for items that might lead to a fall. A slippery rug, items on the floor in the path through a room, or electrical cords going across the floor can all lead to falls.
Most falls are caused by a combination of factors, including vision and hearing problems, physical weakness and other health issues, and environmental factors.
If you fall
Babies can fall and jump right back up, but if you are older, you should be more cautious in your response.
If you fall, don’t move immediately. A fall can be a shock even if it doesn’t lead to injury. Give yourself a minute to calm yourself and decide whether you are hurt.
If you think you might be injured, do not get up right away. The wrong movement might make the injury worse. Call for help and wait for someone to come and assist you.
If you’re confident that you are not injured, roll over on your side and rest for a minute. This will help keep your blood pressure in the normal range.
This is the method experts recommend for rising from a fall:
- Lying on your side, gradually get up on all fours.
- Crawl to a stable chair.
- Get your arms onto the seat of the chair and pull yourself up into the chair.
- Once seated, rest for a moment and make sure you are not injured.
While falls can lead to broken bones and other serious injuries, most falls don’t. Worrying about falls can be worse than the fall itself.
After a fall
Only half of adults who fall discuss it with their doctors. One study found that people may find it embarrassing and may avoid discussing their experience. There are good reasons to talk about this with your physician, though, even if you are not injured.
Many older adults who fall begin to fear falling. Some hesitate to leave their homes for social activities. Others give up exercising, or avoid getting up to use the bathroom. A high proportion of older people who suffer a fall end up losing their independence.
Even if this is not a concern for you, falling could be a sign of a health issue. You might need to increase your intake of Vitamin D or calcium. You might need a change in your medications or your exercise program. It might even be time to think about using a cane.
Make an appointment with an internal medicine (adult health issues) physician or a family medicine physician if you’ve had a fall.