One Fall Can Change Your Life Forever. Stop It Before It Happens.

September is Fall Prevention Month in the United States—a time when we work extra hard to remind seniors, caregivers, and other at-risk populations about the risks they face and the ways they can protect themselves.

Why is this so important to us?

Well, here’s the unfortunate truth. Most people don’t believe how dangerous falls can be—or how likely they are to fall—until after they’ve already fallen once or twice.

First time? “Just a freak accident,” you might say to yourself.

Second time? “Well this is frustrating! I should pay better attention.”

Third time? “Okay, maybe I need some help.”

And the scary thing is that, sometimes, it may only take one fall to permanently change your life.

The High Cost of Falling

Did you know that about 1 in 3 seniors over age 65 will fall at least once per year? It’s true, and the risk increases even more as you age. About 1 in 2 over age 80 will fall, too.

If you’re lucky, your fall will come with only relatively minor consequences. Perhaps the worst you’ll suffer is a bruised hip, or maybe a bruised ego.

But about one fifth of falls do cause serious bodily harm, such as broken bones or a concussion. This leads to around 10,000 deaths per year, as a direct or indirect consequence of falling.

Furthermore, the weeks or months you spend recovering and rehabilitating from your injury could lead to permanent declines in physical fitness, range of motion, and mobility which can limit your ability to enjoy your favorite activities or maintain your independence.

And even if the body heals, the psychological scars can remain. You may be so afraid of falling that you become overly cautious and limit your activities.

Am I at Risk?

As we said, most people are slow to realize they are at high risk of falling until after they’ve already fallen once or twice. It can be hard to admit to ourselves that we’re not as sturdy or stable as we used to be. 

That’s why it’s so important to be cognizant of the risk factors associated with falling, take steps to improve them if possible, and check in with your doctor regularly if you recognize them in your own life.

It may be helpful to sort these risk factors into two categories—intrinsic and extrinsic. 

Intrinsic Risk Factors

Intrinsic risk factors are those related to your physical and mental condition. Things like exercising, eating a healthy diet, and seeking medical treatments may improve some of these items.

They include:

  • The older you are, the more likely you are to fall. Once you reach your 60s, falling should be higher on your radar.
  • Poor vision. If your eyesight is fading, you may not be able to see or recognize tripping hazards.
  • Poor hearing. Some hazards provide auditory clues, which you may miss if your hearing isn’t good.
  • Muscle weakness. Muscle tone and strength naturally decreases with age. Lack of exercise or poor diet can accelerate the decline.
  • Gait and balance problems. Muscle weakness often further contribute to poor balance or altered walking gait.
  • Foot pain. Deformities such as bunions, flat feet, or hammertoes may make it more difficult to balance. 
  • Chronic conditions. Problems such as arthritis, diabetes, peripheral neuropathy, Parkinson’s, and others may reduce your stability and balance, too.
  • Orthostatic hypotension. This is what happens when you suddenly feel lightheaded or dizzy after getting up quickly.
  • Certain medications. Your medications may produce side effects that increase fall risk, such as dizziness.
  • Previous falls. If you’ve already fallen once before, it should be a major red flag that future falls are also likely.
  • Fear of falling. As we said, fear of falling can actually make your fall risk higher over time, since that fear may be keeping you from getting the exercise you need to maintain strength, balance, and coordination.

Extrinsic Risk Factors

Extrinsic risk factors are those that are related to your environment, such as your home, clothing, or assistive devices. Unlike intrinsic factors, these are usually much easier to remove and prevent by making relatively simple changes to your environment and lifestyle.

Examples include:

  • Dim lighting. Make sure your home is brightly lit, and use nightlights in every room to aid in navigation when it’s dark inside the room. Always turn the lights on before entering a room.
  • Tripping hazards. Keep your home clean of clutter, cords, low furniture, and other potential hazards—especially on stairs or in walking routes.
  • Slippery surfaces. Put appropriate non-skid flooring or mats in areas likely to be slick, such as the kitchen and bathroom.
  • Poor stairs. Stairs that are too narrow, shallow, or sloped may be trickier to navigate safely. You may not be able to replace a staircase, but installing sturdy handrails will help.
  • Lack of railings and grab bars. In addition to staircases, consider installing grab bars in the bathroom to help you get up and down from the toilet or in and out of the shower.
  • Using assistive devices improperly. Devices such as balance braces and walkers are only fully effective when used as directed.
  • Hard-to-reach sleeping space. Consider moving your bedroom to the main floor, if possible, to limit trips up and down the stairs.
  • Inaccessible item storage. Keep items that you use more regularly in easy-to-reach locations where you don’t have to bend, stretch, or navigate stairs to access them.

What Do I Do Next?

If you’ve fallen before, or you recognize several of the risk factors on this list, there are several actions you can take to help keep you on your feet.

First, if you have any foot pain or deformity whatsoever, you should give us a call at Trinity Foot Center. Foot pain is absolutely one of the leading contributing factors to falling, and should be addressed promptly and effectively.

As foot and ankle experts, we can provide a thorough fall risk assessment of your feet, ankles, and gait mechanics. Then, we can prescribe whatever treatments you need to relieve that pain and restore flexibility, mobility, and balance to your lower limbs. Whether the best answer for your situation is custom orthotics, special shoes, physical therapy, bracing, or surgery, we’ll make sure you get the excellent foot care you need.

For other intrinsic risk factors such as vision problems, hearing loss, or chronic disease, please consult your primary care physician or an appropriate specialist. They are going to be key members of your fall prevention team.

Finally, look over the list of extrinsic risk factors again and determine if there are any simple modifications you or a family member could make to your living environment to make it safer for you. You may also consider asking your primary care physician for a referral to an occupational therapist, who can provide an in-home risk assessment and make recommendations and suggestions.

Remember, it may only take one fall to cause permanent damage. So make sure the next fall never happens!

To schedule your appointment with Dr. Brandy at Trinity Foot Center, please call our office today at (972) 293-9650. Or fill out our online contact form to have a member of our staff reach out to you.

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DeSoto, TX 75115

Inside the Inwood National Bank Building on the 3rd Floor

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