Common myths about falling

Occupational therapist Raheema Hemraj corrects common misconceptions about how falls impact older adults.

There’s no question that for older adults, falling can be hazardous to health and wellbeing—an average of 3 million older adults are treated in emergency rooms for fall-related injuries every year. But falls are also the subject of numerous misconceptions that confuse people and leave them unclear about what steps they can take to prevent them. Here are the top myths about falls, along with the truth about how to keep yourself safe.

Myth #1: Most falls happen in the bathroom.

According to a recent study in the Journals of Gerontology: Series A, home falls occur most often in the bedroom, followed by the living room. Also, roughly one third of falls occur outdoors. The main contributor to these falls, according to the researchers, is the loss of balance, with slipping or tripping coming in second.

 

Myth #2: The consequence of a fall is solely physical.

Around 20% of falls lead to serious injuries in older adults, like fractures and head injuries. But there’s one very serious result of falling that goes under-discussed: that is, the fear of falling. The fear of falling can lead individuals to withdraw, isolate, and reduce their mobility, and these in turn can make future falls far more likely. It is important to address this crucial psychological aspect to falling along with the physical ones.

Myth #3: “I’m too old to start exercising.”

Strong muscles and better balance help prevent falls, yet older adults can sometimes believe that starting an exercise regime later in life is pointless. But recent studies, like one from the University of Birmingham in the UK, show that after exercising regularly for just a few weeks, older adults may have the same muscle-building capacity as longtime athletes. It is never too late to focus on building strength and balance to prevent falls.

  

Myth #4: Falling is inevitable.

One out of four people over 65 will have a fall each year. This means that three out of four won’t! That’s great news, and it proves that falling is not an inevitability for older adults and by taking just a few simple steps they can help keep that first fall at bay.

 

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