Overcoming the “Fear of Falling” in Seniors
As we age, it is inevitable that falling will become a serious risk to our health and can develop into fear. Gone are the days when a fall resulted in a scraped knee and a bruised ego. Falling in your senior years can have consequences ranging from bruises, broken bones, serious injuries, and even death.
How does the fear of falling begin?
It is a well-known fact that as we age and lose mobility and balance, we are more prone to falling. Seeing a friend, neighbor, or someone your age fall and suffer serious consequences can leave you feeling uneasy and a bit scared.
How to overcome the fear of falling
Several approaches help you or a loved one overcome the fear of falling. Understanding the risks and being proactive in preventing falls is always a good place to start.
Helping yourself or a loved one to overcome the fear of falling by taking action can help to keep you at home longer and remain as independent as possible.
Consult with a medical professional
Discussing your fears and concerns with your doctor can help to decrease your risk of falling. You might need something as simple as a new eyeglass prescription to help improve your vision or a tweak to your medication to lessen side effects that make falling more likely. Talking to your doctor about your current conditions and fears can help put your mind at ease and find ways to deal with any medical issues that might put you at risk of falling.
You can also look into consulting with an occupational therapist to help teach you how to get up from a fall should one occur. Knowing what to do can help to overcome the fear of falling.
Open the lines of communication
If someone you care for or yourself has developed a fear of falling, talking about it can make a big difference. Finding out why the fear started and what specific concerns there are.
It might be that an area of the home makes them nervous. Maybe there is a small step between rooms that catch their foot when they go over it, or there’s too much clutter, which has become a fall hazard. You or your loved one may need something to help with stability, like a cane or a walker when leaving the house.
Getting to the bottom of what will make you or your loved one comfortable at home and out in the community will be the difference between living a fulfilling life or living in fear.
Create a plan
If a person you are caring for, or yourself is at a higher risk of falling, putting a plan in case of a fall can help to ease everyone’s mind.
Figuring out what to do if a fall should occur, will your loved one have a cell phone with them at all times, or would a lifeline necklace be beneficial for them?
Having friends, family, or neighbors stopping by to check in once or twice a day can give you or your loved one a sense of security, that even if they do fall, someone will be coming to check on them at a regular time.
Reduce environmental risks
Performing a home safety check and fixing issues that may lead to a fall will give you and your loved one a sense of security that the home is safe.
A few things to consider are:
- Fastening rugs to the floor
- Rearranging items that are used regularly to easy-to-reach spots
- Removing clutter
- Improve lighting
- Having handrails installed in the bathroom
It’s also important to remind your loved ones that carrying large bulky loads like several grocery bags or a laundry basket can cause them to be unstable and that it’s ok to ask for help with these types of tasks.
Physical activity at any age has numerous benefits, but as we age, it can be the difference between a serious injury and recovering quickly (or avoiding the injury altogether). Talk with your doctor before starting a new exercise routine, but some activities that offer big benefits to senior’s health are:
- Tai chi
- Anything that works on your balance
Using exercise to get you moving and build confidence is a fantastic way to overcome a fear of falling.
Working with a physical therapist and investing in a mobility aid or two can help your fear of falling to rest. Sometimes having something to hold onto is all you need to stay upright.
A few devices that can help in the prevention of falls are:
- Raised toilet seats
- Grab bars
- Reacher’s to pick things up from the floor
Review medication side effects
Some medications can increase your risk of falling. If you are experiencing dizziness or are unsteady on your feet due to your medication, talk to your doctor about any of your concerns and what can be done to help make you more comfortable.
Instead of living in fear of falling, tackling the issue and finding solutions will help you or a loved one overcome the fear of falling and continue to enjoy life to its fullest.