Preventing Falls

“Fear of falling causes people to fall,” according to Veronica Southard, DHSc, an associate professor and physical therapist at the New York Institute of Technology (NYIT) School of Health Professions. “It’s a cycle. You’re afraid of falling so you’re afraid to move; you’re afraid to move and you get weak; you get weak and you’re more likely to fall.”

The best thing anyone over 50 can do, she said, is evaluate his or her risks and make changes to address them.

“Look at your home and think about removing scatter rugs, installing a grab bar in the shower, upgrading your lighting, and keeping things in your kitchen at levels that are convenient to you,” Southard said, noting just a few ways to prevent falls.

But if people are afraid of falling, they need to address that issue, Southard said. They can discuss their fears with their healthcare providers, especially if they are concerned about a problem with balance, strength, or vision. The answers may lie in physical therapy or addressing an area where a person lacks confidence in his or her abilities.

“Vigilance, not fear, is the best thing—being smarter or cautious when you need to be, such as when it’s icy outside. But when fear starts to limit your activity and takes over, it’s detrimental,” she said. “Thinking about preventing falls and taking action to prevent them should be part of your overall health plan. For successful and independent aging, you need to stay strong, keep moving, and keep up your activity levels.”

This article was adapted from information provided by NYIT.

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