Seniors and falls: Discerning fact from myth


On many occasions, we are contacted to provide care for persons who have recently fallen. Unfortunately, quite a few of those cases involve instances of repeated falls, sometimes with significant injuries requiring hospitalization and surgery.

If you or a loved one has taken a fall, or if the possibility of falling is something that worries you, you are not alone. Older adults put falls near the top of the list of things they worry about.

In fact, each year, one in three seniors experiences a fall serious enough to require medical attention. But there are steps you can take to reduce the risk, and the first step is to know the basics.

Myth #1: Falls are just an inevitable part of growing older.

Fact: Some age-related changes adults go through do increase the risk of falling. Many older adults will experience problems with their eyesight, sense of balance, mobility and reflexes. Medical conditions such as stroke, diabetes and Parkinson's disease also increase the risk.

Myth #2: As long as I stick close to home, I can avoid falling.

Fact: More than half of all falls take place right in a person's home. One of the most important steps you can take to cut your fall risk is to do a regular home safety inspection.

Look for hazards, such as rough floor surfaces, clutter, throw rugs, and poor lighting. Make simple home modifications, such as grab bars in the bathroom, a second handrail on stairs, and non-slip paint on outdoor steps.

Myth #3: If I have experienced a fall, the best way to prevent falling again is to avoid physical activity.

Fact: This might be the biggest myth of all when it comes to protecting against falls. The truth is, inactivity results in decreased energy, muscle tone and alertness, which actually increases fall risk.

Myth #4: Medications can't increase the risk of falling.

Fact: Many medications help reduce falls by treating conditions that increase a person's risk of falling (such as arthritis, osteoporosis and low blood pressure).

However, side effects of some drugs can also put us at greater risk of falling. Discuss any dizziness, fatigue, confusion or weakness with your healthcare provider.

Myth #5: If I am worried about the fall risk of a parent, spouse or older adult, I shouldn't bring it up because it might hurt their feelings.

Fact: The reality is, helping your loved one or friend reduce the risk of falling is a caring act that can help him or her maintain the highest degree of independence possible.

Contact an in-home care company in your area to help with a safety assessment of your loved one's home and to help guide you in how to have this important conversation.

The good news is, plenty of research has been done on the subject of falls, and there is much we can learn from the studies.

Being informed is the first step, because when it comes to falls, discerning myths from facts can help you lower your risk of injury in the future.

Scott Wellinger is the co-owner of Senior Helpers in the Lowcountry.

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