4 Ways Seniors Think About Falls – Which Approach is Best?

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Written by Elizabeth PTHome Safety

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It's a beautiful thing that each person sees the world uniquely. But this all-over-the-board thinking can be troublesome when it comes to falls.

I've never met anyone who hasn't fallen. If you can't recall a recent fall, think about your childhood. Did you fall while learning to walk, ride a bicycle, or maybe from a tree swing or ice skating? 

Falls happen. We are all at risk, especially as we get older. People generally fall (pun intended for a bit of levity on a serious topic) into one of these three schools of thought.

Elderly woman who fell and broke her glasses.

4 Ways Older Adults Think About Falls

  1. They believe that falls won't happen to them. I see this one the most. Most older adults admit that falls are a possibility, just not a possibility for them. I'm all for being optimistic, but statistics aren't on your side. Each second of every day, someone 65 years or older falls in the US, according to the CDC. And one out of four seniors fall each year. These statistics are probably grossly underestimated - you'll learn why later in this article. However, falls are not a normal part of aging, and there are many ways to reduce fall risk.
  2. Some people are afraid of falling, whether they've fallen recently or not. I've seen plenty of clients with this problem throughout my career. It's sad because they limit their activities to reduce their fall risk (or at least what they think will decrease their risk of falling) and miss out on enjoying their lives. If you want to learn more, this article has ideas to address the fear of falling in older adults.
  3. Another category is those who think that even if they fall, they won't get hurt. Again, the facts and statistics don't support this thinking. One out of every five falls results in injury, some of them severe, like head injuries and broken bones. Some are even deadly. Fall injuries create a vicious cycle because they often reduce mobility, further increasing fall risk. 
  4. Some folks believe their chances of falling are less if they don't think about it. I'm all about mind over matter and know our brains are incredibly powerful. Still, again, statistics tell a different story.
Middle age woman who fell in living room and injured her shoulder

A Hybrid Strategy for Thinking About Senior Falls

I'd like to propose a middle-of-the-road hybrid approach to thinking about falls. 

First, acknowledge the facts and the reality. Statistics don't lie. Falls are common and dangerous, but they are also preventable.  

Next, make preparations to reduce fall risk. There are many ways to do this, some personal and others environmental. A multi-factor approach combines strategies for individual and environmental factors, is practical, and works well for most people.

Personal fall risk factors are beyond the scope of this article. But, they are definitely worthy of exploring and addressing with your healthcare team. 

While it can be more challenging and time-consuming to control and change the many personal factors that affect fall risk, changes to your home environment are easy in comparison. 

You might be surprised to learn that most fall hazards are easy to fix once you know what to look for. Things that frequently cause falls around the house are easy to overlook since we are so familiar with our home spaces. 

Everyone should start by making these easy home environment modifications outlined in the next section. Once you've completed these simple changes, continue to identify other environmental fall hazards in and around your home.

After addressing prominent issues, completing home modifications, and acknowledging the reality of falls, you'll have increased confidence and be able to move on more easily, knowing that you've done what you can to reduce your fall risk. 

Older woman fell on steps

3 Easy Fall Prevention Ideas for Home

Here are three simple ways to start fall-proofing your home today. Just because they're easy doesn't mean they're ineffective—they're actually very effective.

Clutter Management

The first one may be obvious—clear clutter from pathways where people are moving. You'd be surprised by how many people overlook this, though. Aim for three feet of clear space anywhere someone will be moving inside each room and in between rooms. 

Move furniture as necessary. Secure cords and wires away from areas where people are moving around. 

Lighting Ideas

The second idea is to increase lighting. Few homes have adequate lighting, especially in critical areas such as stairs. Simply swapping out traditional incandescent bulbs for LED bulbs that provide more light with less wattage instantly boosts illumination in any space. Options such as stick-on and strip lights can also add more light to areas away from electrical outlets or light fixtures.

Rug Management

Third, manage rugs. Remove small rugs that move easily. Often referred to as 'throw rugs,' I call them 'throw you off balance rugs.' Add anti-slip rug tape or non-slip backing under larger, heavier area rugs to keep them in place.

Complete these three tasks, and your home will be immediately safer—maybe as much as 50% safer. These low-cost, high-impact activities take so little time.

A kitchen throw rug poses a fall risk for seniors.

Fall Reporting

An interesting aspect of fall statistics is that most falls are not reported to a medical professional, which is often where statistical data is collected.

I can't tell you how often my clients wouldn't tell me they fell. Usually, there were clues like bruises that weren't there before or a spouse saying, 'Well, are you going to tell her?' 

Therefore, I asked more questions and finally got them to reluctantly admit to a fall. 

But then they begged me not to tell their doctor. In home health, though, it's policy to report all fall occurrences. 

Conclusion and Next Steps

Falls can significantly impact quality of life. And many falls can be avoided by making simple lifestyle changes and home modifications like those mentioned in this article. Let's tackle this issue so you can keep living your best life! Here you can find even more fall prevention tips and ideas for home.

About the Author

As a home health Physical Therapist for over 20 years, I help clients solve home dilemmas so they can live their best life.

I'm here to use that same problem-solving expertise and training as a Certified Aging in Place Specialist to help you create an optimized home that's forward-thinking and future-ready to support you and your loved ones well for a lifetime.

Ready to discover your Golden Girl strategy for a retirement-ready home?