While circus clowns and comedians may stir audiences to laughter over such stunts as slipping on a banana peel, there is nothing funny when a senior falls, as seniors are at an increased risk for serious injuries that may result in a long rehabilitation process. Not only that, but there is a lesser known complication that oftentimes arises from a senior’s fall: a fear of falling again which can be significant enough to impact quality of life and health.
As the saying goes, “Once bitten, twice shy.” It is normal – and wise – for an older adult who has fallen to want to take precautions in order to prevent a subsequent fall. However, for some, the fear of falling prevents necessary physical exercise, bringing about reduced balance confidence and weakness, both of which can actually enhance the danger of falling again.
Instead, it is crucial for seniors to:
- Strengthen muscles. Ask the doctor and/or physical therapist for recommended exercises to engage in after a fall. Building strength is an extremely important component to preventing future falls.
- Assess the house. Walk through the older adult’s home to check for any clutter, cords, throw rugs, etc. which could cause a tripping hazard. Ensure there’s plenty of lighting and install grab bars in the bathroom and anywhere else supplemental support might be beneficial.
- Discuss it. Older adults may feel embarrassed for having fallen; however, it’s worthwhile to talk about what happened in order to evaluate which precautionary measures should be taken to make sure that it does not take place again.
It is also helpful for seniors to create goals, with the help of a medical professional, and to start to work on achieving them. The goals should be practical and fairly easily attainable, however, to instill confidence, such as having the ability to walk up and down the stairs independently while holding the handrail in the next 2 weeks, or walking the full length of the backyard within 4 weeks.
Once an objective has been set, identify the steps needed to get to that goal. What types of activities will help strengthen the muscles needed to go up and down the stairs, or to take a lengthier walk? And in case the goal is not achieved, figure out what prevented the accomplishment, and what additional steps could be taken to set and reach a new goal.
Above all, be sure to provide encouragement and support to cheer an older adult on towards regaining his/her self-assurance and confidence and also to lessen any fear.