The fear of falling is something that many seniors have but few discuss, even though the fear keeps them needlessly homebound and inactive. However, there are ways that seniors can overcome their fear and get their lives back on track.
Improve Balance and Strength
Loss of balance causes most falls and feeling unbalanced adds to fears of falling. This means that seniors should work on improving their balance. Simple exercises like standing next to a chair on one leg while holding on for support will help to improve balance and will provide greater confidence. Another strategy is to balance on one foot while brushing teeth in the morning and on the other while brushing at night. As strength and confidence increase, so can the level of difficulty of the exercises.
Increasing muscle strength is also important for seniors who want to prevent falls. An exercise program that includes stretching and strengthening will improve both strength and balance and will make seniors less vulnerable to falls. ElderGym is a great resource for free exercise instructions and instructional videos.
Make the Home Safe
Removing hazards that could cause a senior to trip also helps to minimize falls. Assess the senior’s surroundings and make sure that living spaces are safe. Things like extension cords, floor lamps, and tables should be moved out of the flow of traffic. In the kitchen, frequently used items should be placed in low cupboards that can be reached easily without the use of a ladder or step stool. In the bathroom, rails should be professionally installed next to toilets, bathtubs and showers to provide support in this dangerous area.
Removing slipping hazards is also important. Area rugs that can slip should be removed from all rooms. Install grips on stairs to improve traction and prevent slippage. Make sure there is a non-slip mat in the shower with suction cups to secure it to the shower floor. Check on the mat periodically to make sure it is still functioning well as intended. Replace it regularly, as cheap mats do not last very long.
These are but a few suggestions to help prevent falls. See Home Modifications for Accessibility for more information about preventing falls as we age.