While comedians and circus clowns may stir audiences to laughter over such stunts as slipping on a banana peel, there is nothing funny about falling when it comes to older adults, who are at an elevated risk for serious injuries that may result in a lengthy rehabilitation process. Not just that, but there’s a lesser known complication that often comes from an older adult’s fall: a fear of falling again that is significant enough to affect quality of life and health.
As the saying goes, “Once bitten, twice shy.” It’s normal – and practical – for an older adult who has fallen to wish to take precautions in order to prevent a subsequent fall. Yet for most, the fear of falling again impedes necessary physical exercise, resulting in reduced balance confidence and weakness, both of which can actually increase the chance of falling again.
Instead, it’s vital for senior loved ones to:
- Strengthen muscles. Ask the physician and/or physical therapist for appropriate exercises to engage in after a fall. Building strength is an essential component in fall prevention.
- Assess the home. Walk through the older adult’s home to check for any throw rugs, cords, clutter, etc. which can cause a tripping hazard. Make sure there’s ample lighting, and install grab bars in the bathroom and anywhere else supplementary support is likely to be helpful.
- Discuss it. Seniors may feel embarrassed for having fallen, but it’s worthwhile to discuss what occurred in order to evaluate which fall prevention measures should be taken to make sure that it doesn’t happen again.
It is also beneficial for seniors to create goals, with the aid of a medical expert, and to start working towards achieving them. The goals need to be practical and easily attainable however, to instill confidence, such as having the ability to walk up and down the stairs independently while holding the handrail over the next couple of weeks, or walking the total length of the backyard within four weeks.
Once an objective has been set, define the steps required to get to that goal. What types of exercises will help strengthen the muscles essential to go up and down the stairs, or to take a longer walk? And in case the goal is not achieved, think through what prevented the accomplishment, and what additional steps can be taken to set and reach a new goal.
Most importantly, be sure to provide reassurance and support to cheer an older adult on towards regaining his or her self-assurance and confidence also to lessen any anxiety.
For more fall prevention tips, or to arrange for a free in-home safety assessment, reach out to JFS Care, the expert providers of in home care services in Santa Monica and the surrounding area any time at (213) 383-2273. Visit our Service Area page to see if our services are available in your neighborhood.