Help Limit your Fear of Falling

When individuals are afraid of falling they begin to limit their activities and this effects everyday life.
Posted on January 29, 2016 by Erin Carter, Michigan State University Extension

I have to admit, I don’t think or worry about falling very often, with the exception of when I’m running in the woods or outside in the winter. Numerous times I have sprained the same ankle and banged my knees from falling during the activities I love but the fear of falling does not limit me. My mother is 85 years young, quite agile and does not limit her life because of the fear of falling but I think she is the minority.

As people age, their eyesight, muscle tone, bone density (to name a few of our systems) begin to be compromised which could possibly lead to a fall. When individuals are afraid of falling they begin to limit their activities and this effects everyday life. Nobody wants to be restricted when it comes to visiting friends, shopping or simply going for a walk, especially on nice weather days. If the fear of falling becomes so great, it can take away from the enjoyments of life and lead to isolation. This downward spiral could possibly lead to depression.To help prevent the fear of falling from consuming your every move, keep the following tips in mind.

Tell your doctor if you fall: Being a trainer in the Matter of Balance Class made me realize how frightened older people are to tell their doctors about their falls. They are afraid they will be put in a nursing home and never have their carefree lives back. We discuss in our class how important it is for their doctor to know if they have fallen because it could be due to medication that needs to be adjusted or a blood pressure issue. It can also be a sign of diabetes or an eye sight problem. Your doctor needs to know these changes in case there needs to be variations in your care.

Ways to prevent falls: Exercise is key to preventing falls by helping muscles and bones become stronger. Agility is also improved by moving more regularly and improving muscle tone and balance.  It’s interesting to me that individuals in our Matter of Balance class didn’t believe they could improve muscle tone or increase bone mass at their age.

There are danger zones to be aware of when trying to prevent falls such as:

  • Invisible ice called black ice which can build up on driveways, streets near car doors and along paths where you walk.
  • Slippery surfaces in the bathroom can be hazardous, installing a grab bar may help in the bathroom and remembering to be diligent about cleaning spills will also help prevent falls.
  • Loose rugs, although nice looking, can cause a fall if they do not stick to hardwood or have an edge that sticks up.
  • Medications can cause dizziness if you change positions from lying down or sitting to standing too quickly.  Make sure you take your time when changing positions and allow blood pressure to stabilize first before standing.
  • Shoes with heels that can be a tripping hazard especially walking in unfamiliar areas where tripping may happen easier.

Michigan State University Extension has Matter of Balance classes offered throughout the state to help individuals learn physical activity and ways to prevent falls.