Tips for preventing falls and staying independent

You may already have seen this frequently cited statistic about aging from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Each year, one in three people age 65 and over experiences a fall.

But have you heard this one? The CDC reports that of those who take a fall, only about half of them tell their doctor about it.

If you’re one of those who have stayed silent, it may be because you didn’t think it was important to tell your doctor. Or maybe you didn’t hurt yourself when falling—or only a little bit, so why mention it? Many older adults don’t speak up because they’re worried that if they admit they’ve fallen, they’ll soon be pressured by friends and family members to make a change in their living situation.

In truth, telling your health provider and your loved ones about a fall is important for maintaining good health and independence. Here’s why.

  • Of those who fall, one in five experiences a serious injury like a broken bone or a head injury.
  • More than 95 percent of hip fractures are caused by a fall.
  • Falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injury.
  • And 2.5 million older people are treated in emergency departments each year because of a fall.

These are sobering statistics but they don’t tell the whole story. There’s a lot you can do to prevent a fall, stay injury-free, and maintain your independence.

An important first step is to talk with your doctor about your fall so you can determine if there’s a medical cause. If there is, it often can be effectively addressed.

You can also make changes to prevent falls.

For example, if your muscles aren’t as strong as they used to be, you may feel less stable when you walk. Your doctor or a physical therapist can suggest exercises that will help strengthen your muscles and improve your balance. You’ll find some suggestions for exercises here.

If that alone isn’t enough, there are also many walking aids that can help prevent falls.

Making changes to your home environment may minimize your chance of falling—such as removing scatter rugs from around the house that may cause you to trip. You’ll find many other suggestions here.

Take some steps today to prevent a fall, and you’ll be taking steps toward better health, and maintaining independence.