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Maintaining Balance Falls and 
Physical Instability


Why are older people more prone to falls?

There can be many reasons why an older person falls more often than a younger person. For example, including: 

  • Older people tend to be less active and have, as a result, more fragile bones and poor reflexes to save themselves from falling.

  • They may also be less physically stable due to changes in posture or degenerative conditions such as arthritis.

  • Many have sensory impairments, such as reduced vision, that make it difficult to negotiate stairs or walk around obstacles such as a pile of toys or shoes on the floor.

  • Certain medications may have side effects such as dizziness that promote instability. 

Why are falls so serious?

Falls can lead to broken bones or soft tissue injuries, both of which can lead to further health decline and poor quality of life in older people. For example, of the 200,000 people who last year broke a hip as a result of a fall, 20% died within 6 months, and another 20% needed to move to a nursing home. 

Even if their fall was not serious enough to cause a fracture, some seniors may become so anxious about falling again that they severely limit their activities. Doing so can seriously impair their enjoyment of life, and actually lead to further health problems that, in turn, can make falls more likely.

How can falls be avoided?

There are three key strategies in preventing falls:

  1. identifying the cause

  2. getting treatment for conditions that may make falls more likely

  3. making adaptations to the personís environment

If you have a fall, and even if you think you simply slipped or tripped. you may want to talk to your physician about it. He or she will ask where and when the fall occurred and will likely examine you to find out if you have a health problem that might have contributed. 

If you do have such a health problem, you can often do something about it. For example, a weak or arthritic knee can be strengthened with appropriate exercise. Or you might find you need a new pair of glasses. In some cases, you might need drug treatment for a medical condition, such as an ear infection, that has temporarily affected your balance. 

If you have had a fall in your home, itís time to think about make some changes, even if you have lived there happily and safely for many years. Removing mats that can skid, improving lighting throughout the house, changing the way you store items in the kitchen (so you donít have to climb), and installing bathroom grab bars are just some of the many ways you can help avoid falling again. 



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