By Joy Pape, FNP-C CDE CILC
If you are afraid of falling, know that you are not alone. In some ways, that fear can be helpful, but in other ways, it may not.
During this time of year, I read, along with the daily weather forecast, the warnings of ice on the ground, even ‘black ice’—the ice you can’t always see. It is very dangerous whether you are driving or walking.
These are some reasons why being afraid of falling is not helpful:
- You may stiffen up, which can offset your balance and increase your chance of tripping, slipping, and falling.
- You may not want to leave your home. This can cause social isolation and loneliness, two conditions that can cause other health problems, including an increased risk of falls.
Being afraid of falling can be helpful in motivating you to make a plan—a Fall Prevention Plan for YOU. This plan should include both how to prevent a fall and what to do if you have a fall.
Here is a general Fall Prevention Plan:
- Be aware of your health risk of falling. Being healthy starts with awareness. If you have an unsteady gait, are taking medications, have fallen in the past, or are just getting older, discuss your risk of falling with your health care professional (HCP). The HCP can refer you to a specialist who can provide a fall risk assessment and possibly personalized treatment and other recommendations. A recent New York Times article entitled, “Afraid of Falling, For Older Adults, the Dutch Have a Cure,” published on January 2, 2018, speaks of this as a common problem, classes offered to overcome this fear, and how the frequency and deleterious consequences of falls can be prevented.
- At home, check the weather forecast, and wear proper clothes and shoes. If forecasts predict rain and snow, and you are unsteady, it is best to go outside with someone who is steadier than you. Remove throw rugs, wear non-skid shoes or slippers rather than socks and stockings on wood or tile floors, and make sure to have clear pathways.
Your Fall Prevention Plan should also include what to do in case you fall.
- How will you communicate with someone? Will you use a phone or alarm device that signals help right away? If you use a phone, make sure it is charged and paid for. Either way, the alarm or phone should be easily accessible at all times (e.g., on your person).
- Make sure that someone can get to you. Also, be sure that you can trust the person(s) you will be calling or alarming; they should have a key or code to enter your home or apartment. The sooner you are in touch with someone who can help you, the lower the chance of you having problems from a fall.
Please stop and think about your Fall Prevention Plan. You may not think you are at risk for a fall, but truly, we all are. I believe that knowledge and prevention can, in many cases, be the best medicine.
Joy Pape is an internationally known, board certified Family Nurse Practitioner, author, writer, and presenter. She believes that every person is an individual and deserves personalized medical, integrative care, and hope for a healthy and full life. She can be reached at (212) 933-1756 or firstname.lastname@example.org.