Follow These Smart Strategies to Help Lower Your Risk of Falling

September 27, 2021

Older man sitting on a yoga ball flexing his arm musclesFalling is one of the most likely, but least recognized, dangers to seniors. Millions of older Americans suffer a fall each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) — with one in five leading to a serious injury.

South Texas Health System Injury Prevention Coordinator Veronica Silva says the elderly are at an increased risk for falls due to factors such as reduced strength, impaired balance, poor vision, prescribed medications and even unsafe home conditions. Falls can result in things like head injuries, hip fractures, sprains and shoulder injuries. However, the consequences of a bad fall don’t end once the body heals.

“Those who have experienced a fall may have decreased mobility, a loss of independence and a newfound fear of falling — all of which are risk factors for future falls,” says Silva. “The good news is falls are preventable with the right interventions, including physical therapy to help improve one’s gait, strength and balance.” The bad news is that fall death rates in the U.S. have risen every year since 2007. By 2030, the CDC projects seven deaths resulting from a fall will occur every hour.

How to Reduce Your Risk of Falling

Silva says taking measures to reduce your fall risk is crucial for a long, healthy life. These include:

Optimize Medications

Certain medications have risks that outweigh benefits for certain individuals. If necessary, consult your doctor about switching to a medication regimen with a better safety profile.

Wear Supportive Shoes

If you are at risk for falling, consider using supportive shoes both inside and outside the home. Supportive shoes are those that have soles with traction, cushioning and low heels.  Being barefoot or only wearing socks can increase your risk.

Practice Tai Chi

Tai Chi is a system of movements and positions originating from China recommended by the CDC for fall prevention. Evidence shows this exercise strongly supports increasing strength and balance among older adults. Additional benefits include improved sleep, brain function and pain management.

Be Mindful of Home Hazards

Potential home hazards include throw rugs, loose extension cords, tubs without non-skid surfacing and poorly lit hallways. To prevent a rug from sliding, secure it with double-sided carpet tape.

Consider Using a Mobility Aid

Proper use of a mobility aid — such as a walker or cane — as instructed by a physical therapist, can help prevent falls and provide greater confidence, freedom and independence.  Working with an occupational therapist can help improve functional impairments that put you at risk for falls.

Fall prevention is a team effort that requires communication between your primary care team and your support network. Working to reduce your risk of falling can help you retain your independence and improve your quality of life.