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Fear of Falling, and How you can Support a Loved One

Unfortunately, as we get older falling can have a really damaging and sometimes life threatening consequence to us. So it is no wonder that many of our older friends and relatives; particularly those who have had a bad fall experience, develop a fear of falling.

Fear of falling while in itself is an understandable and very reasonable fear to have for many elderly people can have a real impact on our health and well being, and develop into a fear that prevents people from doing day to day activities that they used to enjoy. This can become very isolating and worrying for people and impact on their emotional health too.

Anyone can have a fall, but for older adults the frequency and risk of injury is higher.

Why are falls a concern?

  • 1 in 3 adults over 65 will have at least one fall a year.

  • Falls can limit a person's physical ability and engagement in daily activities

  • Falls can impact an individual psychologically as well, and result in fear-related activity avoidance, loss of self-efficacy and loss of confidence in older adults.

  • Falls can result in hospitalisation and worst case; traumatic injuries (such as fractures)

For people who have already fallen at an older age, particularly those who have sustained a serious injury as a result, the fear of falling can develop.

Why do people fall?

Falls are complex. There are various reasons why an individual may experience a fall. Some common reasons for falling are:

  • Limited mobility (poor balance and muscle weakness)

  • Vision loss and hearing loss

  • Effects of medication (some medicines can cause dizziness, and dizziness is also more common for those who are on more than 4 or more different medications)

  • Environmental hazards (such as cluttered spaces and poor lighting, which puts them at higher risk of trips and falls)

It is really important to encourage elderly friends or relatives to keep their house free of clutter, if this is something they can't manage it may be beneficial to hire a cleaner who can support them to clear the house of preventable tripping hazards. If you do notice things such as poor lighting, pulled up carpets or other house wear and tear issues it is important to get these fixed as soon as possible. For properties that are council owned you should always contact the local council to report any necessary repairs.

How can people reduce their falls risk?

Falls are not always straight forward and often there is more than one factor that contributes to a fall. There is not just one solution to reduce a falls risk but there are multiple things you can do to mitigate them. Age UK recommend:

  • Thinking about why they may have fallen before, to look at preventative measures you can put in place next time

  • Staying active and engage in activities to improve and maintain confidence and prevent a serious fear of falling developing and impacting on your loved one's quality of life

  • Checking the environment for hazards. Think: is the space cluttered? Are there loose wires? Do they keep tripping over the same rug?

  • Encourage your loved one to attend annual eye tests, annual GP medication reviews and bi-annual hearing tests to catch any health issues early.

  • Support your loved one to wear sensible foot wear for indoor and outdoor use that fit them properly and provides good grip, particularly on wet flooring!

  • Encourage your loved one to use a telecare system or lifeline. This is a personal alert pendant to provide them with a sense of security and also helps them to contact help quickly in the event of a fall. You can find more information on telecare here.

Fear of Falling

It is common to develop a fear of falling particularly after a fall. Having a fear of falling can create a barrier and acts as a negative cycle which can heighten the risk of falling and developing a stronger fear.

This fear can cause activity avoidance which can contribute to physical deconditioning, social isolation and increased dependence on others, sleep difficulty and lower quality of life.

Remember: If you are concerned about your loved ones falls risk please contact your GP to discuss this further and request an occupational therapy input. You can also find lots of information on falls and what you can do on the NHS website here.

How we can help

We offer befriending, chaperoning and support services. It is our aim to build strong rapports with the people we support to encourage a safe and open space to encourage people to be open and honest about their fear of falling so we can look at support measures we can put in place to help build confidence.

We also offer help around the home with practical tasks. If your loved one struggles with mobility, or finds that certain tasks pose a higher risk of falling we can help and either carry out the tasks with them, or for them. We always work in a person centred way, and the support we provide is led by you. We only intervene at the level that feels right for your support needs to help encourage independence in a way that allows you to carry out your day to day tasks comfortably and safely.

We will always support you in activities, offer a friendly face and encouragement to help you and your loved ones regain the confidence you need to live fear-free of falls.

You can find out more about our services here.

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